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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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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.


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Why pro-lifers should be concerned with Biden’s OMB nominee

February 11, 2021 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that pro-lifers should be concerned about President Biden’s pick for the position.


Neera Tanden, the CEO and president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, was nominated by President Biden in December to be the next OMB director. If confirmed by the Senate, Tanden will have a critical role at the White House in ensuring the success of the administration’s policies.


“It is certainly one that should trouble pro-lifers, from the standpoint of the policy agenda that she’ll be asked to articulate,” said Russ Vought, former director of OMB from July, 2020 to January, 2021, of Tanden’s nomination to the post. Vought was interviewed by EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in a segment that will air Thursday night.


The position of OMB director is a critical one, Vought explained. Tanden, if confirmed, would be tasked with seeing that Biden’s “policies are reflected throughout the federal government.”


“You’re really the nerve center, from the federal government’s perspective, to be able to put a high-level policy position into effect. And to make sure that the bureaucracy, quite frankly, isn’t going in a different direction,” Vought said on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.


President Biden has already stated that it is the “policy” of his administration to promote “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” in a Jan. 28 memorandum that allowed for taxpayer funding of international pro-abortion groups. That language is commonly interpreted by international groups, including the United Nations, to refer to abortion and contraception.


At her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Tanden reaffirmed President Biden’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment; the policy bars federal funding of elective abortions. When asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) if she would push to preserve the Hyde Amendment in future presidential budget requests, Tanden would not say.


Biden has also stated that his administration’s “policy” will be to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” in a Jan. 21 order redefining sex discrimination to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal experts told CNA that his order would have broad implications and would ignite many conflicts over religious freedom.


A president’s choice of an OMB director is reflective of his thinking, Vought said, wanting someone who “consistent with his ideology” in the position.


Tanden has previously served as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. During her tenure, the organization fought religious freedom protections for groups opposed to same-sex marriage. The think tank sought to redefine religious freedom to include LGBT “equality” and “reproductive rights,” and has also promoted figures who are seeking to split Christianity over LGBT issues.


Tanden has also been a strong supporter of the HHS contraceptive mandate, using contraception as an issue to divide and marginalize abortion opponents.


During her confirmation hearings this week, Tanden was pressed by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) over a 2012 article where she called the mandate a successful “cudgel” used to cast opponents of contraception as “extreme.”


Tanden initially did not apologize for her words, saying instead that “for anyone offended by my language, you know, I feel badly about that.” Tanden later apologized for her comments contributing to polarization.


Tanden has also supported abortion during her tenure at CAP. She called efforts to defund Planned Parenthood “partisan attacks on women’s access to critical health services”; she lauded the Supreme Court’s 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision that struck down Texas restrictions on abortion clinics; and she praised former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as someone who has “fought tirelessly to improve women’s access to abortion.”


Vought served as acting OMB director from Jan., 2019, until July, 2020, when he was officially confirmed in the position by the Senate.


He said that, during his time in the office, he was able to help enact policies such as the Protect Life Rule which required recipients of federal Title X grants to not be co-located with an abortion facility. He also claimed credit for the administration stopping federally-funded research with fetal tissue at NIH facilities.  


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Pro-life groups warn against abortion funding in COVID relief

February 11, 2021 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pro-life groups are warning against increased funding of abortions in Congress’ proposed COVID relief legislation.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), stated on Wednesday that “House Democrats are shamefully pushing a massive expansion of abortion on demand, paid for with tax dollars, in the guise of COVID-19 relief – including payouts to abortion giant Planned Parenthood.”


The House Energy and Commerce Committee commenced a hearing to consider a massive COVID relief proposal on Thursday morning. The proposal includes funding for vaccine distribution, national testing, and community health services.


However, SBA List noted that the proposal contains billions of dollars in health care funding but without specific prohibitions on funding of abortions—meaning that the funding could go toward abortions, abortion coverage, or abortion providers.


The proposal contains $750 million for global health and billions of dollars for community health centers but without “Hyde Amendment” provisions, SBA List said. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in health care and has been part of congressional appropriations for decades; leading Democrats have said they intend to reverse the policy this year.


The proposal also includes $50 million for the Title X family planning program, and expanded subsidies towards health plans that cover abortions, SBA List said. In particular, the funding of Title X could go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers if the Biden administration—as expected—repeals an existing prohibition on Title X funding of groups that refer for abortions.


“Polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including millions of rank-and-file Democrats, are opposed to bankrolling abortion businesses whether in this country or overseas,” Dannenfelser said.


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.


In addition, an Economist/YouGov poll published on Feb. 4 found that Americans disapproved of President Biden’s decision to repeal the Mexico City Policy, by a margin of 42% to 36%. The Mexico City Policy forbids U.S. funding of foreign organizations that promote or perform abortions.


Efforts are also underway to block federal funding of Planned Parenthood in COVID relief. On Wednesday, SBA List thanked Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) for introducing an amendment to clarify that Planned Parenthood was not eligible for PPP loans.


Congress set up the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in March to provide emergency loans to small businesses and eligible non-profits to keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the rules of the program, Planned Parenthood affiliates were supposed to be ineligible for the loans, but affiliates applied for and received around $80 million in PPP loans anyway.


Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) on Tuesday also tried to add an amendment to a budget reconciliation bill blocking taxpayer funding of abortions, but Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee blocked the amendment in a 27-21 party line vote.


The group Democrats for Life of America tweeted on Thursday that “If @TheDemocrats codify Roe and repeal the Hyde Amendment, they can kiss the House and Senate goodbye in 2022. Let’s not sacrifice our entire legislative agenda for something like this.”


Although Republican members of the House and Senate have signed statements pledging to uphold the Hyde Amendment, Democratic leaders have signaled that they are prepared to pass COVID relief bills on a simple majority vote, with or without Republican support.


The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has asked members of Congress to not include funding for abortions in the upcoming COVID relief bill.