Congress will tackle several pieces of important abortion-related legislation this Fall

By Jennifer Popik, J.D. Director of Federal Legislation

With Congress slated to return from recess soon, the month of September will be particularly busy on the pro-life front. While there will be action on the annual spending bill, and a separate 3.5 trillion dollar social spending reconciliation bill, pro-abortion Speaker Pelosi (D-Cal.) has also announced that the House will vote on the sweeping “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Annual Appropriations

Work has resumed on appropriations bills to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2022, and the ongoing fight to save the Hyde Amendment to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion continues. 

During the last week of July, by a vote of 219 to 208, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4502 that includes spending for Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS). H.R. 4502 removes the longstanding Hyde Amendment which bans federal funding of domestic abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment has been enacted—with bipartisan support—in various forms from 1976 until FY2021. No Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 4502.

The Senate will need to defend against tax-payer funding of abortion, and more votes are expected prior to the September 30th government funding deadline. It is likely that if no agreement is reached, Congress will work on a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open.  The current appropriations does contain pro-life protections. 

Battle to save the Hyde Amendment

After Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, various federal health programs, including Medicaid, simply started paying for elective abortions. By 1976, the federal Medicaid program was paying for about 300,000 elective abortions annually, and the number was escalating rapidly. An amendment by pro-life Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) to prevent federal Medicaid funds from paying for abortions was enacted.

The Hyde Amendment is widely recognized as having saved an estimated  2.4 million American lives since it was first adopted in 1976 and has proven to be the greatest domestic abortion-reduction measure ever enacted by Congress. In addition, a November 2020 McLaughlin poll showed that 64.6% oppose tax funding of abortion including 49% of Democrats and 69% of Independents.

Also missing from House appropriations bills was Weldon Amendment language which would protect the conscience rights of medical providers and prevent them from being forced to participate in an abortion.

It is critical to continue to contact your members of Congress to urge them to retain Hyde and other provisions that prevent tax-payer funded abortion. Our action alert is available here

3.5 Trillion Dollar Reconciliation Social Spending Bill

Congress is also working on a massive $3.5 trillion social spending plan using the reconciliation process. The threshold under this process is 51 votes and thus is not subject to a filibuster. 

To start the reconciliation process, the House and Senate must agree on a budget resolution that includes “reconciliation directives” for specified committees. On August 11, 2021, the Senate passed a budget resolution that included an amendment offered by Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.)to apply the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment (providing conscience protections for persons who do not want to participate in abortions). The Lankford Amendment was added by a vote of 50-49, with one pro-life senator absent.

While non-binding, the effect of the Lankford Amendment is to show majority support in the Senate for the Hyde Amendment as the process continues. The House of Representatives must agree to the budget resolution before the actual budget can move forward. If passed by the House, the budget resolution will unlock a massive  reconciliation bill which Democrats intend to use this fall to bypass the filibuster. 

National Right to Life will continue to monitor the package for pro-life concerns related to the expansion of Obamacare and other health programs that fund elective abortion.

Women’s Health Protection Act

In response to Texas SB 8 which permits civil remedies against performing abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) announced the house will vote on the radical Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). The WHPA is designed to remove all legal protections for unborn children on both the federal and state level.

Over 100 pro-abortion organizations support the Women’s Health Protection Act, because it would expand abortion on demand and remove or nullify protective pro-life laws at both the federal and state level.

“The so-called ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ does nothing to protect women or their unborn children,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Calling it the ‘Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act’ would be more in line with what this legislation actually  is. It is a gift to pro-abortion groups and their allies, a wish list of proposals not supported by the public.”

Among the protective laws that the bill would nullify:

*Requirements to provide women seeking abortion with specific information on their unborn child and on alternatives to abortion;

*Laws providing reflection periods (waiting periods);

*Laws allowing medical professionals to opt-out of providing abortions;

*Laws limiting the performance of abortions to licensed physicians;

*Bans on elective abortion after 20 weeks when an unborn child is capable of feeling pain;

*Bans on the use of abortion as a method of sex selection. These anti-sex selection laws generally have broad public support in the states in which they are enacted, including support from substantial majorities of women.

The bill would also invalidate most previously enacted federal limits on abortion. That would include federal conscience protection laws and most, if not all, limits on government funding of abortion.  National Right to Life strongly opposes this sweeping legislation. 

National Right to Life will continue to closely monitor these legislative efforts.  More on taxpayer funding of abortion can be found at www.nrlc.org/hyde.