Appropriations bill advances without Hyde Amendment 

Kate Scanlon   By Kate Scanlon for CNA

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), House Pro-Life Caucus co-chair who offered an amendment to restore Hyde Amendment and conscience language to the bill. / Office of Rep. Andy Harris

Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2021 / 15:01 pm (CNA).

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a funding bill for fiscal year 2022 without including the usual prohibitions on abortion funding.

According to a committee summary, the appropriations bill – which funds the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education – provides for $253.8 billion for the 2022 fiscal year, an increase of 28% from the current year. It does not include the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 that prohibits funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid.

An amendment to include the Hyde Amendment in the appropriations bill failed at Thursday’s markup hearing in a 27-32 vote. The legislation, without the Hyde Amendment, ultimately passed the committee by a vote of 33-25.

In remarks at the hearing, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), ranking member of the appropriations committee, said the Hyde Amendment “reflects a longstanding compromise on a controversial issue.”

“The removal of this provision is deeply troubling to me, both morally as well as what it means for the appropriations process and bipartisanship moving forward,” Granger said.

The amendment, named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions. The policy was first enacted in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

In 1993, exceptions were added to the amendment for cases involving rape, incest, or a maternal mortality risk. Since the amendment is not permanent law, it must be attached to individual appropriations bills each year in order to take effect.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s religious liberty committee, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s pro-life committee, called the bill “the most extreme pro-abortion appropriations bill that we have seen, effectively mandating healthcare professionals to participate in abortion, and forcing American citizens to pay for abortion with their tax dollars.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the vice ranking Republican on the committee who introduced the amendment, said at Thursday’s hearing that excluding the Hyde Amendment “also threatens to destabilize the entire appropriations process, because this bill will never become law if this language is not included.”

He argued that House Democrats did not have the votes to pass the bill without Republican support, and that the bill would not survive in the Senate without the provision.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said on Thursday, “I know that this is the source of much concern on the other side of the aisle.”

“But I do believe repealing the Hyde Amendment is the best thing we can do to support our mothers and families and help prevent, rather than penalize unwanted pregnancies and later, riskier and more costly abortions,” said DeLauro, a Catholic who recently co-led a statement of principles by 60 Catholic House Democrats.

According to the group Democrats for Life, Rep. Henry Cuallar (D-Texas), a Catholic member, voted in favor of the Hyde Amendment.

The committee highlighted additional funding in the legislation for the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and additional provisions to help improve maternal health and mental health, and to help prevent gun violence and opioid abuse.

The committee also stated that the bill “advances equal treatment for women by increasing funding for the range of health services, including family planning, covered by Title X and repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment.”

The bill also requires family planning clinics receiving Title X federal funding to provide nondirective abortion counseling, and make referrals for abortions upon request. It also would reverse conscience protections for healthcare workers by excluding the Weldon Amendment.

“For me, that’s very personal,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), an obstetric anesthesiologist by trade, at Thursday’s hearing. “My gravest concern is individuals,” he said, citing claims of healthcare workers forced to participate in abortions at hospitals. “It’s not about a provider’s preference, it’s about a provider’s religious belief.”

During his 2020 presidential campaign, President Joe Biden called for an end to the use of the Hyde Amendment, in a reversal of his previous support of the policy.

This article was updated on July 15 with new information.

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