House spending bill undermining pro-life protections

CNA Staff, Jul 24, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders are sounding the alarm against efforts in the House to undermine pro-life protections in federal spending bills.

On Friday, the House passed a “minibus” bill outlining funding of various federal agencies, including the State Department and foreign operations. Pro-life groups, however, have warned that the legislation would undermine the Mexico City Policy, which bars foreign groups that promote or provide abortions from receiving U.S. assistance.

In the legislation, H.R. 7608, the section on global health activities—Sec. 7068—ensures that “none of the funds made available by this Act” for the State Department and foreign operations “shall be made available to implement the Presidential Memorandum on Mexico City Policy dated January 23, 2017.”

The Mexico City Policy was first established by the Regan administration and has been rescinded by the Clinton and Obama administrations, while being reinstated by the administrations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The Trump administration expanded the policy into its Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, extending the pro-life protections to more than $8 billion of U.S. global health assistance.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, spoke out in defense of the policy in his Floor remarks on Thursday.

“Many countries throughout the world have been besieged by aggressive and well-funded campaigns to overturn their pro-life laws and policies,” Smith said, noting that the Mexico City Policy “mitigates U.S. taxpayer complicity in global abortion.”

“I believe we must increase access to maternal and prenatal care and ensure access to safe blood and better nutrition for all women—especially those living in poverty,” he said.

Friday’s bill, passed by a vote of 224-189, also funds the UN’s population fund (UNFPA), which the Trump administration has refused to fund since 2017 because of its partnership with China’s family planning program. The administration says China’s two-child-per-family policy is enforced through forced abortions and sterilizations.

Democrats have also inserted amendments into other funding bills to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which was first introduced by former congressman Henry Hyde in 1976. It is passed each year as a “rider” attached to spending bills, and prohibits public funding of abortions through Medicaid reimbursements.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, introduced an amendment on Thursday to repeal Hyde in the funding bill covering the federal agencies of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, along with other agencies.

“The Hyde Amendment is a racist, discriminatory policy that has perpetuated inequity and injustice in our nation for far too long,” she said. Pressley introduced her amendment along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized the efforts to undermine the pro-life protections on Friday.

“More than 2.4 million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment – but Joe Biden, Ayanna Pressley, and fellow extremist Democrats have pledged to eliminate Hyde and other crucial pro-life policies, forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on demand through birth, Dannenfelser said.

Hyde has come under increased attack from Democrats in recent years, following the 2016 DNC platform which called for the repeal of the policy. Last summer, Pressley made a last-minute attempt to insert an amendment undoing the policy into a funding bill for Health and Human Services, but the amendment was rejected as a violation of House procedure.

Former senator and vice president Joe Biden, a long-time supporter of the policy, reversed his support last year in the face of opposition from some in the party. All the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates supported taxpayer-funded abortion during the primary season.

Last September, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) attempted to repeal the Mexico City Policy and the Title X Protect Life Rule in funding bills.

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