White House won’t guarantee no abortion funding in COVID relief

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2021 / 12:35 pm (CNA).- The White House on Tuesday reaffirmed President Biden’s support for taxpayer-funded abortion, and wouldn’t comment on abortion funding in a proposed COVID relief package.

At a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Owen Jensen of EWTN News Nightly asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki if President Biden would “guarantee” that tax dollars wouldn’t fund abortions in a proposed COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan.

“We know where President Biden stands on the Hyde Amendment, but that being said, can this administration right now guarantee— if the American Rescue Plan is passed—that no taxpayer dollars will go to the abortion industry?” Jensen asked.

The Hyde Amendment has been federal policy since 1976, passed each year as a rider to budget bills. It bars federal funding of elective abortions. Biden, joining other Democratic leaders, came out in opposition to the policy in 2019 and has promised to repeal it.

Psaki responded that Biden’s “view on the Hyde Amendment is well-known” and that she did not “have anything new for you” on the matter of abortion funding in COVID relief.

Congress is currently working to pass a COVID relief package which funds health care and economic relief as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s relief proposal asked for nearly $2 trillion in spending.

Pro-life groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), have warned that the relief proposal in the House does not have necessary Hyde Amendment-type provisions that would protect against funding of abortions.

As proposed in the plan, new health care spending—$750 million in funding for global health, billions of dollars for community health centers, $50 million for the Title X family planning program, and funding for COBRA coverage—does not have prohibitions on funding of abortion, SBA List has warned. Thus, it could result in increased funding of abortions, abortion coverage, and abortion providers.

Congressional Democratic leaders have already signaled that they intend to pass COVID relief with or without Republican support.

Last week, Republican members of the House introduced pro-life amendments during reconciliation markups, the process by which Congress is passing relief package. One measure introduced by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) sought to prohibit funding of abortion coverage in COBRA, or subsidized health coverage for unemployed people.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced a provision to bar funding of abortions, during a reconciliation markup in the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Another proposal by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) attempted to redirect the $50 million for Title X to youth suicide prevention. As the Biden administration is expected to allow Title X funding of groups that refer for abortions, Lesko argued that the additional relief funding should not go to pro-abortion groups.

When pressed by Jensen if Biden would “guarantee” no funding of abortions or abortion providers in COVID relief, Psaki said that “three-quarters of the public supports the components of the package.”

According to a Jan. 27 Knights of Columbus/Marist poll, more than three-quarters of Americans opposed taxpayer funding of abortions overseas, and 58% of respondents opposed taxpayer-funded abortions in the U.S.

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