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House passes COVID relief, pro-life groups warn it funds abortion

February 27, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The House passed a massive COVID relief bill early on Saturday morning, without protections against abortion funding.


After debating the bill on Friday evening and voting on early Saturday morning, the House passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021 by a largely party-line vote of 219 to 212. The bill funds vaccines, testing and tracing, and provides economic relief including stimulus checks to American families.


It does not, however, include prohibitions on funding of abortions, something that pro-life groups—including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)—have warned would increase abortion funding.


The Hyde Amendment, enacted into law each year as part of appropriations bills, prohibits funding of elective abortions. “Hyde” language was included in the COVID relief bill that passed Congress last year, the CARES Act, and the bill also included provisions blocking Planned Parenthood affiliates from accessing emergency loans. Planned Parenthood affiliates were still able to apply for, and receive, around $80 million in emergency loans from the CARES Act.


However, the current package includes neither of those pro-life protections. Pro-life groups have warned that global health funding, health insurance subsidies, and funding of the Title X program could go to elective abortions, abortion coverage, and pro-abortion groups.


In his remarks on the House Floor on Friday evening, the co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), called the exclusion of pro-life language “a radical departure from all previous COVID-19 relief laws,” and one which “mandates taxpayer funding of abortion-on-demand.”


On Friday, several members unsuccessfully tried to insert Hyde language through an amendment while the bill was considered by the Rules Committee. The amendment was cosponsored by 206 members. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)


The amendment sought to prohibit funding of abortion coverage for unemployed persons through the COBRA program, as well as in tax credits for health premiums. It also sought to apply pro-life protections to funding of the Title X family planning program.  


Rodgers and other Republicans tried to insert pro-life amendments to the legislation as it was considered in various House committees, but the amendments were rejected. The measures included redirecting Title X funding to support child suicide prevention, as abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood are expected to once again be eligible for Title X grants during the Biden administration.


Two Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill—Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine).


The American Rescue Plan also mandates a $15-per-hour minimum wage, although that provision is expected to be struck by the Senate Parliamentarian before the chamber considers the legislation.


March for Life president Jeanne Mancini stated on Friday that the bill includes “billions of dollars in subsidies for abortions, not only here in the U.S. but also abroad.”


In his floor remarks, Smith noted that President Biden once supported pro-life protections against abortion funding.


“Mr. Biden once wrote constituents explaining that his support for laws against funding for abortion by saying it would ‘protect both the woman and her unborn child,’” Smith noted. 


“Unborn babies, Madame Speaker, need the President of the U.S. and members of Congress to be their friend and advocate, not their adversary,” Smith said.


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News Briefs

Congress debates abortion funding in COVID relief

February 12, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Members of Congress on Thursday debated abortion funding restrictions in a proposed COVID relief package, with one member comparing abortion coverage to cancer treatments.


“Abortion is health care, and excluding abortion from COBRA coverage makes as little sense as excluding cancer coverage,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said of an amendment to bar funding of abortion coverage in health coverage subsidies for unemployed workers.


In response, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, tweeted that “[r]eal healthcare in the case of a difficult pregnancy looks like addressing the illness of the mother or unborn child; not eliminating the child. Real doctors heal; they don’t harm.”


Several House committees convened on Thursday to consider and advance measures for a massive COVID-19 relief package. President Biden had proposed nearly $2 trillion in funding of health care and economic relief in response to the pandemic.


Democratic leadership have already signaled that they will pass a coronavirus relief bill with or without Republican support in the House and Senate. Pro-life groups have warned that the relief proposals do not include sufficient pro-life protections—and thus could fund abortions, abortion coverage, and abortion providers in a number of ways.


The House Democrats’ proposal released this week includes $750 million in funding of global health, and billions of dollars for community health centers. It also includes expanded subsidies towards health plans and COBRA coverage.


Within the committee hearings themselves, members debated the ethics of abortion funding.


In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, members discussed the $50 million in additional funding of the Title X family planning program. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment redirecting the funding to youth suicide prevention, as the Title X funds could go to abortion providers.


The Trump administration in 2019 required Title X grant recipients to neither refer for abortions, nor be co-located with abortion facilities. This resulted in Planned Parenthood withdrawing from the program and forfeiting an estimated $60 million in annual funds, rather than comply with the new mandates.


President Biden has already begun the process of reversing that rule, and some Republicans on the committee thus did not want additional funding of Title X if abortion providers would benefit from the program.


“We know that Title X has been used to fund abortion providers,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) stated.


However, committee Democrats accused Republicans of being anti-contraception and hurting women’s health.


Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) defended the access of abortion providers—such as Planned Parenthood—to the Title X program. “For many women, the only doctor they see in a year is someone who works at Planned Parenthood or at another clinic that gets Title X funds,” she said on Thursday.


Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a Chaldean Catholic, also opposed the pro-life requirements for the Title X program and said it is about family planning, not abortion.


Eshoo said she often asks new committee members about their families. “I don’t know one member of our committee that has 8, 10, 12, 14 children,” she said. “This isn’t about abortion. This is about family planning.”


Rep. Lesko said that for many pro-life members, their beliefs on life are “part of our faith” and “ingrained in us.”


“So when you say that we’re attacking women, I totally disagree. Because half of the babies that are aborted are going to be women,” she said to fellow members. Lesko’s amendment failed in a 31-26 vote.


During a markup of COVID relief in the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment to ensure protections against funding of abortions in health coverage.


The relief measure would fund COBRA health insurance premiums for unemployed workers, and Walorski’s amendment would have ensured that federal subsidies could not pay for abortion coverage.


“I believe every human life is precious, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the destruction of life,” Walorski said on Thursday. Her amendment failed in committee.


Rep. Chu opposed Walorski’s effort and compared funding abortion coverage with funding coverage for cancer treatments.


In a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) responded to accusations that pro-life members were just trying to “score cheap political points” with their amendments.


“We hold sincere beliefs that life is sacred from the point of conception to natural death, and we truly believe that violating that moral code is a stain on our entire society and our entire world,” Foxx said.