By Jennifer Popik, J.D., Director of Federal Legislation
Editor’s note. This appeared on page one of the December issue of National Right to Life News. Please share the Christmas issue with your pro-life family andfriends.
As we look ahead to the 118th Congress, while there are certain to be challenges, with Democrats no longer having single party control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, pro-life opportunities exist.
The House will be controlled by a slim Republican majority, while the Senate will remain in Democrat control with a razor thin majority.
The current 117th Congress is finishing work on the “lame duck” session, with the largest looming item being the government funding bill. Pro-life groups and National Right to Life continue working to ensure that the Hyde Amendment and similar funding riders to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion remain intact.
As for the next Congress, pro-abortion President Joe Biden was asked by a reporter following the election “What in the next two years do you intend to do differently to change people’s opinion of the direction of the country, particularly as you contemplate a run for President in 2024?” He responded, “Nothing, because they’re just finding out what we’re doing. The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is.” To his mind, that most assuredly includes abortion.
Not only will House Republicans be able to call up votes, but they have publicly announced plans to hold numerous hearings meant to hold the Biden Administration accountable for administrative actions ranging from the COVID-19 response to the Afghanistan withdrawal among others. According to NBC News, “House Republicans’ majority will be smaller than expected, but they’re eager to use their new oversight powers and pass a spate of bills to draw contrasts with Democrats and give the Biden administration heartburn.”
In the wake of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, the contrast could not be clearer. The Democratic Party is and will continue to be the party of unlimited abortion paid for by taxpayers. For Republicans, in terms of both legislation and oversight, pro-life opportunities exist.
With pro-abortion Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally surrendering the gavel, there will now be opportunities to vote on pro-life measures for the first time in two years. In the previous Congress, Democrats blocked any prolife votes, including on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act requires that when a baby is born alive following an abortion, health care practitioners must exercise the same degree of professional skill and care that would be offered to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. It also requires that, following appropriate care, health care workers must transport the child immediately to a hospital. Current federal law does not sufficiently protect a child born following an abortion.
In the last Congress, Republicans, led by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), Kat Cammack (R-Fl.), and Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House Whip, and Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) worked vigilantly on a discharge petition to attempt to bring the measure to the floor for a vote –falling only a few signatures short. We expect this legislation will again be a priority item in the new Republican-controlled chamber.
In addition, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act should be a priority item for House Republicans. The legislation would codify the principles of the Hyde Amendment on a permanent, government-wide basis, with respect both to longstanding federal health and to the Obamacare law.
Currently, the Hyde Amendment and similar riders need to be reapproved year after year. Further, federal subsidies flow to Obamacare plans that cover abortions in most states. This legislation, if enacted, would provide a permanent fix to both issues.
Over the past 2 years, the Biden Administration has been working furiously to attempt to short circuit the legislative process and expand abortion. President Biden and his administration have taken a series of anti-life actions, including executive orders.
In January 2021, less than a week after taking office, President Biden issued an executive order forcing American taxpayers to fund groups that promote abortion overseas (rescinding the Trump administration’s Global Protect Life or Mexico City policy).
In addition, the Biden Administration withdrew the United States from the Geneva Consensus Declaration which reaffirmed that there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.
While Republicans cannot easily overturn any of these Biden actions due to the Democrat control of the Senate, there is a great deal that the House can do in terms of oversight of at least some of the Biden agency action. Some of the more egregious administrative actions are outlined below.
Since 1992, the VA has been statutorily prohibited from using taxpayer dollars for abortion. On September 9, 2022, the administration unilaterally ignored the longstanding prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion at the VA, issuing a new rule that includes funding abortion for health reasons. This incredibly broad “health” exception will mean abortion for any reason and is aimed at circumventing not only funding restrictions, but protective state laws as well.
Department of Defense
On October 20, 2022, the Department of Defense (DOD) published a memorandum which violates decades-old federal law prohibiting the DOD from funding elective abortion (which
includes facilitating such abortions). According to the new memorandum, the DOD would “establish travel and transportation allowances for Service members and their dependents, as appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law… to facilitate official travel to access noncovered reproductive health care that is unavailable within the local area of a Service member’s permanent duty station.”
However, both federal law and Congressional intent clearly state that the U.S. military may not fund elective abortion. Funding travel for elective abortion flies in the face of decades-old permanent pro-life law.
Department of Justice
Congress can also demand action on other items that have been totally ignored by the administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ). For example, very late-term unborn babies were recovered from the Washington Surgi-Clinic in D.C. Was federal law followed? Was there a possible violation of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act? In addition, the DOJ has failed on numerous occasions to investigate the vandalism and arson of pregnancy care centers and pro-life offices.
With an administration committed to expanding abortion, all eyes will be on Congress for the next two years. There is a great deal that the House, in particular, can do to advance the pro-life cause. This includes voting on pro-life legislation and also exerting oversight over the Biden Administration’s extreme abortion agenda