WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed its first major pro-life bill of the new year on Tuesday, one which would solidify in law the current policy of no federal funding of abortions.
The bill would “protect Americans’ conscience rights by ensuring that their hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fund the destruction of innocent life,” Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., said on the House Floor before the vote.
Federal funding for abortion is largely prohibited under the 40-year-old Hyde Amendment, named after its original sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill. However, that amendment has to be passed by Congress every year as a “rider” to appropriations bills, clarifying that the taxpayer dollars cannot be used for abortions.
The amendment enjoyed decades of bipartisan support. The most recent Democratic National Committee platform, however, called for its repeal.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, passed Tuesday by a 238-183 vote and sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., would solidify this policy in law so that it does not need to be annually reapproved by Congress.
It would expand on current protections against taxpayer funding of abortion to other areas, such as federal employee health plans. It would also extend to the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that no federal subsidies fund abortion coverage in plans offered on the exchanges.
A 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office found loopholes where insurers were not following the protocol to make sure abortions were billed and itemized separately from other health coverage paid for by federal subsidies, leaving open the possibility that federal dollars were funding abortions.
“More than 20 peer-reviewed studies show that more than 2 million people are alive today because of Hyde,” Rep. Smith stated on Tuesday.
He said there is a “megatrend” showing “that the American public not only does not support taxpayer funding for abortion, but the public increasingly supports actions to protect unborn children and women from the violence of abortion.”
According to a Marist poll released earlier this week and commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, 61% of respondents opposed the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions. That included 53% of millennials and 41% of Democrats.
President Trump has signaled that he would sign the bill if it was passed by Congress. The Senate will have to pass it first.
Rep. Black stressed that pro-life women would be represented by the bill.
She recalled that “it was just a week ago that the groups of women marched in the streets of D.C. and other cities across the country,” referring to the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, where pro-life groups were explicitly denied official partnership in the march by its organizers.
“There were millions of pro-life women who were explicitly told that they were unwelcome at this event,” Black said. “So, today, the people’s House is giving them and the more than 60% of Americans from all political persuasions who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion a voice.”
As a registered nurse who worked for decades in health care, Black said she opposed abortion and any funding of the practice with tax money.
“During my years in the health care industry, I saw the joy in young parents’ eyes when they met their newborn for the very first time,” she said. “And, sadly, I witnessed a young woman lose her life due to the effects of a botched abortion. These experiences inform my view that all life is a precious gift from God. I pray that, in time, this truth will be reflected in our nation’s laws. But until then, can’t we at least do this much?”
Abortion is not women’s health care, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., insisted. “What we are vehemently opposed to is the killing of innocent lives,” she said, adding that “there is no place in the federal budget for abortion funding.”
And Rep. Smith stated, “Madame Speaker, someday future generations of Americans will look back and wonder how and why such a seemingly smart and enlightened society could have permitted over 60 million children to be exterminated by abortion, often with government enabling and subsidy.”