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.