House passes spending bills, strips out pro-abortion language

Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The House on Tuesday passed two large spending bills that were stripped of pro-abortion language, ultimately satisfying pro-life advocates.

“This should never have been a problem in the first place. The main reason it was, was because the Republicans allowed it to get into the underlying bill,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA of pro-abortion language that was pulled from legislation funding government agencies for 2020.

The House on Tuesday passed two large spending bills devoid of problematic provisions that had previously plagued legislation when it was being considered in the Senate several weeks ago.

The bills—the House-amended Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 and Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020—passed by votes of 297 to 120, and 280 to 138, respectively, before the House readies to vote on articles of impeachment of President Trump on Wednesday.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said Tuesday that she was “pleased” that an “anti-life” amendment was removed from the 2020 funding bill for the State Department and foreign operations.

The amendment by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) increased international family planning assistance and reinstated funding for the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA). The Trump administration has declined to fund the UNFPA for three years because of its partnership with the Chinese government’s family planning program, which the administration says is complicit in forced abortions and sterilizations.

The increases in family planning assistance could pay for abortions and abortion advocacy, pro-life advocates warned, as some domestic groups that have received U.S. assistance in the past have promoted abortion as a method of family planning despite the prohibitions of the Mexico City policy on funding of abortions and abortion advocacy.

As the policy applies to international groups, domestic groups that work overseas were not barred by the policy from receiving U.S. funding.

Shaheen’s amendment would have also provided a mechanism to enforce an Obama-era USAID policy, that would have been used to discriminate against religious organizations and other NGOs that don’t provide abortions or contraceptives when USAID chooses its contracting partners for international assistance.

Tuesday’s “double decker” spending bill that passed the House did not include the Shaheen provision. “I think it was because of the loud voice of the folks at OMB, and it was because of everybody working among the pro-life community, united, that the Shaheen-Graham language was pulled,” McClusky told CNA.

Dannenfelser said that Shaheen’s amendment was “violating the groundbreaking budget agreement that Democratic Leaders Pelosi and Schumer were obligated to honor.”

In July, President Trump reached an agreement with House and Senate leaders of both parties that no “poison pills” would be added to spending legislation in the next two years without the consent of all parties involved.

The agreement was viewed by some pro-life leaders as a victory, in that it would protect against any last-minute attempts to add pro-abortion amendments to spending bills.

McClusky, however, had criticized the deal as ineffective. During the appropriations process in early September, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tried to insert an amendment undoing the Trump administration’s rule protecting against taxpayer funding of abortions in the Title X family planning program; her efforts forced Senate Republicans to abandon the spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies.

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