House passes spending bills without restrictions on abortion funding
by Matt Hadro
Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 15:00 pm
The House this week passed spending bills that would allow funding of abortions both in the United States and abroad.
On Thursday afternoon, the House voted 219-208 to pass a large spending bill without customary prohibitions on federal funding of most elective abortions. The bill – H.R. 4502 – provides appropriations for a number of federal agencies and programs, but excludes the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.
The legislation also omitted other prohibitions on funding of abortions and abortion coverage, and excluded the Weldon Amendment which conditions federal funding on state and local governments upholding conscience protections in health care. Pro-life leaders criticized the omission of these “riders” from the spending bills.
“The Knights of Columbus is extremely disappointed in this week’s actions by the House of Representatives to remove longstanding, bipartisan taxpayer and conscience protections including the Hyde Amendment,” stated Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, on Thursday. “The House vote to make taxpayers pay for abortions is both an assault on the dignity of life and contrary to the wishes of most Americans.”
“These important provisions protect the American public from funding or providing abortions against their will,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stated on Thursday. “No one should be forced to compromise their values, but especially not on this life-or-death issue.”
The Hyde Amendment was a “bipartisan compact” in Congress for decades, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said on Tuesday on the House Floor, while the legislation was being considered. “Now it’s gone.”
Members of both parties each year have voted for spending bills with the Hyde Amendment included. In 1993, some Democrats tried to remove the amendment from the budget process, with President Bill Clinton submitting his budget request to Congress without the policy. An amended version of Hyde – including exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger – was later included in the congressional budget process. The spending bill that year was signed into law by Clinton.
Current president Joe Biden once supported the Hyde Amendment as U.S. senator, even outlining his reasons for doing so in a 1994 letter to a constituent. In 2019, while he was running for president, Biden reversed his support and pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment. In May 2021, he submitted his budget request to Congress without the policy included.
Pro-abortion groups applauded the passage of the bill on Thursday without the abortion funding prohibitions.
“This is #AbortionJustice in action,” the group All* Above All tweeted of the House vote on Thursday.
“This is a victory for progress: the new spending bill finally leaves out harmful abortion coverage bans like the Hyde amendment and sets up critical investments into sexual and reproductive health programs, including Title X,” the Twitter account of Planned Parenthood Action stated.
On Wednesday, the House also passed a State and Foreign Operations budget bill for the 2022 fiscal year that excluded the Helms Amendment. The 50-year-old federal policy bars funding of international abortions in U.S. foreign assistance.
Pro-abortion groups celebrated the news, with an official at Planned Parenthood Global, as well as the group Planned Parenthood Action, praising the legislation.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Wednesday that she was “especially proud” her bill removed “restrictions that have prohibited safe abortion and health care services for people in low-income countries for decades.”
Rep. Fortenberry, meanwhile, said the United States would be exporting abortion at the taxpayers’ expense.
“We are about to export our most divisive cultural issue – our pain, our woundedness – onto the poor of the world. Pope Francis has called this ‘ideological colonization.’ It’s unfair, it’s wrong, and it smacks of arrogance and elitism,” Fortenberry said on the House Floor on Tuesday while the bill was under consideration.
Lee’s bill would also permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, dubbed by abortion supporters as the “global gag rule.” The executive policy can be instituted or repealed by a president’s administration and is not permanent law. It bars funding of foreign NGOs that provide or promote abortions as a method of family planning.
Before the final House vote to pass the funding bill on Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) offered a Motion to Recommit which would have reinstated pro-life provisions removed from the legislation. His effort failed by a vote of 208-217. Cole’s motion included language forbidding funding of abortion and abortion coverage, as well as restricting funding of abortion in the District of Columbia.
“Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for child dismemberment,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, on Wednesday. “Rather than funding the death of a baby, I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition.”
The legislation passed by the House on Wednesday and Thursday not only omitted the Hyde and Helms amendments, but also excluded other pro-life policies included each year in budget bills.
The Weldon, Kemp-Kasten, Smith, and Dornan amendments all restrict funding of abortions or pro-abortion causes. Normally included as part of government funding bills, none of the policies were included in the bills that passed the House this week.
The Weldon Amendment prohibits federal funding of state and local governments that discriminate against health care workers or providers who refuse to participate in, pay for, or cover abortions. The Kemp-Kasten Amendment restricts funding of international groups complicit in forced sterilizations and forced abortions. The Smith Amendment restricts funding of abortion coverage in federal employee health plans, and the Dornan Amendment bars federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.