Pro-Life Groups Warn Draft Spending Bill Would Fund Abortion on Demand

The bill did not include the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars funding of abortions in Medicaid

United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (photo: Vlad / Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee on Monday advanced a draft spending bill without the usual prohibitions on abortion funding, legislation that pro-life groups warned would force taxpayers to subsidize abortion on demand.

“These are bad bills. They are never going to pass the Senate,” said Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, to CNA on Monday.

“We do believe that there’s enough Democrats who definitely don’t want to have this fight on taxpayer funding of abortion,” he said.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on Monday voted to report favorably a draft appropriations bill for the 2022 fiscal year; the bill would provide funding for several federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The bill did not include the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 which bars funding of abortions in Medicaid. Pro-life groups warned the legislation, if enacted, would fund elective abortions on a broad scale.

“Democrats’ abortion agenda does violence to the poor and vulnerable, devastating the minority communities for whom they claim to advocate,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

At a markup hearing for the bill on Monday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chair of the House Appropriations Committee, called the previous prohibitions on funding of abortions in Medicaid “discriminatory.”

“I know that this is an issue on which many of us disagree. But regardless of the original intent of Hyde, it has disproportionately impacted women of color, and it has ultimately led to more unintended pregnancies and later, riskier, and more costly abortions,” DeLauro stated.

“Quite frankly, allowing the Hyde Amendment to remain on the books is a disservice not only to our constituents, but also to the values we espouse as a nation,” she said.

Rep. DeLauro is a Catholic member who co-led a recent statement of principles of 60 Catholic House Democrats, that urged members not be denied Communion for their support of legal abortion.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., ranking member of the appropriations committee, said on Monday that Hyde has protected “the conscience rights of the great majority of Americans who are opposed to publicly-funded abortions for religious, moral, or fiscal reasons.”

The appropriations bill is expected to be considered by the full committee, after which it would be sent to the full House for debate and a vote. 

Various House subcommittees have been considering appropriations bills that fund different federal agencies and programs. Other pro-life funding provisions, such as prohibitions on funding of abortions in the District of Columbia and in federal employee health benefit programs, have already been struck in other bills.

Pro-life groups and members also warned on Monday that important health care conscience protections were missing from the Labor-HHS legislation. The bill forbids Medicare Advantage funding of health care providers and institutions if they refuse to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions, and if the HHS Secretary denies them participation because of their refusal.

“That’s basically a gift to Xavier Becerra, who, when he was out in California, he was the one who was fighting the Weldon Amendment and wanting churches who had health care plans to pay for abortion,” McClusky told CNA.

Beccera, currently HHS Secretary, formerly served as California’s attorney general. He was found in violation of the Weldon Amendment by the Trump Administration, for his defense of California’s abortion coverage mandate. That state requirement forced employers to cover abortions in employee health plans, and did not exempt an order of Catholic religious.

“This is an essential right of every American, and its removal is a danger to us all,” Rep. Cole said of the removal of conscience protections, noting that President Biden did not exclude the conscience language from his budget request to Congress in May.

In the bill’s section on the Title X federal family planning program, it requires patients with positive pregnancy tests to be given information on prenatal and infant care, adoption, and abortion, by Title X recipients. Under the bill, Title X recipients also must make abortion referrals upon request.

“This is, clear and simple, a coercion order,” McClusky told CNA.  

The Labor-HHS appropriations bill advanced this week as another proposed spending bill – which would fund the State Department, foreign operations, and “related programs” – allows for direct funding of international abortions and pro-abortion groups in federal programs.

The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill provides for increased funding of international family planning and global health programs without the usual restrictions on funding of international abortions.

It excludes the Helms Amendment, which prohibits funding of elective abortions overseas; it would also permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, executive policy that forbids funding of international pro-abortion NGOs in U.S. global health assistance.

The pro-abortion group Population Action International said the appropriations bill “exceeded the expectations” of “sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke out against the legislative text at a July 1 markup hearing. He told CNA in an interview last week that the bill’s support for international abortion was unprecedented.

“It not only exceeded expectations, it’s unthinkable, what is about to happen, that Americans for the first time in 50 years are going to be forced to export abortion overseas. This is how sad that division is,” Fortenberry told CNA last week.

“What is the purpose of diplomacy? It’s to create the space for mutuality and trust, so that there can be healthy dialogue between nations, and for the prospects of both stability and peace,” he said.

“How does this further peace? It takes our own [abortion] division and puts it on other peoples – which they do not want, by the way. So, it smacks of arrogance, it smacks of elitism, and as I said, Pope Francis has called this ‘ideological colonization’.”