By Jennifer Popik, J.D. Director of Federal Legislation
Editor’s note. This appears on page five of the March digital edition of National Right to Life News. Please share this editorial—and all of the remainder of the content in this 42-page issue with your family and friends. If they are not currently receiving the monthly NRL News and/or the Monday through Saturday National Right to Life News Today, they can sign up for both at one time at https://mailchi.mp/nrlc/emailsignup.
While the old adage, “elections have consequences” is always true, few years have brought it into sharper focus than 2021. With Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and the White House, this year has already brought, and is sure to bring more, legislation with abortion-related consequences.
With the abortion elements of the COVID-19 reconciliation bill are discussed separately on page one and page two, here we will examine three votes that occurred just in this past week alone.
The So-Called Equality Act (H.R. 5)
The so-called “Equality Act” is one of the more pro-abortion pieces of legislation ever to be voted on in the House of Representatives.
On February 25, the House of Representatives passed H.R.5 by a vote of 224-206. The bill was supported by all 221 Democrats and three Republicans. It was opposed by 206 Republicans. Two House Republicans did not vote.
The legislation was packaged as dealing with sexual orientation and gender discrimination. In truth, the “Equality Act” contains language amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that could be construed to create a right to demand abortion from health care providers, and likely would place at risk the authority of state and federal government to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions. If enacted, this legislation could be used as a powerful tool to challenge any and all state abortion restrictions.
Timing on a Senate vote is unclear, but could happen on short notice. It is expected that Senate Democrats will bypass the usual committee process and proceed directly to a vote.
The So-Called “For the People Act (H.R. 1)
On March 3, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 1, by a vote of 220-210, with not a single Republican voting in support. The “For the People Act” is billed as a measure to combat corruption but is itself a type of stealth corruption.
H.R. 1 would touch on nearly every piece of the electoral process, from voting regulations to free speech. While conservative voices express concern over numerous parts of the Democrat election takeover legislation, there is grave concern to countless advocacy groups, including National Right to Life, over the deep implications on our work and our donors.
The purpose of H.R. 1 is to discourage, as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as National Right to Life) from communicating with supporters about officeholders. This bill would expose citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, H.R. 1 would smother organizations in multiple, burdensome layers of record keeping and reporting requirements—all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions.
According to NRLC president Carol Tobias, “This bill is nothing more than a thinly-disguised attempt to secure power by pro-abortion Democrats. Democrat leaders are happy to violate the First Amendment and penalize Americans and their right to free speech if it means that they can silence opposing voices.”
H.R. 1 is an abuse of the lawmaking power, where incumbent lawmakers will be able to employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves.
The bill also would destroy the bipartisan composition of the Federal Election Commission by eliminating a commissioner—upsetting the current balance. The changes to the FEC would significantly increase the likelihood that the agency’s decisions would be politically motivated.
The Senate is expected to consider this legislation, but will face fierce Republican opposition.
Nomination of Xavier Becerra to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
On March 3, the Senate Finance Committee—again with no Republican support– moved to advance the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
All 14 Democrats voted to advance the nomination and all 14 Republicans voted in opposition. Due to the power-sharing arrangement of a 50-50 Senate, a tie advances the nomination.
Not only does Mr. Becerra lack meaningful healthcare experience, he would also use this office to impose his ideology on matters related to abortion and other right to life concerns, among others. Numerous pro-life groups, including National Right to Life, oppose the nomination.
It is alarming that a nominee with no health experience has been put forth, given HHS’s critical role in ongoing vaccine production and distribution, along with the regulatory power the agency has in implementing recovery legislation,
While Mr. Becerra lacks public-health experience, he does have a proven track record of hostility on pro-life issues. As California’s attorney general, Mr. Becerra repeatedly and aggressively attacked protective pro-life laws and organizations with rancor. While a long-time congressman from 1993 to 2017, he had a 100% pro-abortion voting record. More on his record can be found here.
Mr. Becerra is expected to face a full Senate confirmation vote in the coming days.
The Senate is expected to tackle all three of these issues in the coming days. You can find Action Alerts on these items, as well as new issues that arise, at www.nationalrighttolifenews.org and www.nrlc.org.