WASHINGTON (BP) — The effort to remove the federal government from the abortion business failed Thursday (Jan. 17) in the U.S. Senate.
Senators voted, 48-47, to bring the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act to the floor for a vote on final passage. But the roll call fell far short of the 60 votes needed to succeed in the procedural move known as invoking cloture.
The proposal, S. 109, would establish a permanent, government-wide ban on funds for abortions by standardizing the prohibitions that now exist in various federal programs. The bill also would block federal money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health-care law and guarantee full disclosure of abortion funding by health insurance plans that are part of the controversial arrangement.
The new, pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives — controlled by Democrats as a result of the November election — also stood in the way of congressional passage of the bill. The White House, however, had announced President Trump’s support for the measure Jan. 17.
The vote came on the final day of Evangelicals for Life, a conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in the Washington, D.C., area, and on the eve of the annual March for Life in the capital. The ERLC listed the ban on federal funding of abortion as a policy goal in its 2019 legislative agenda announced Jan. 16.
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press, “The failed vote in the Senate to prevent taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, while disheartening, will not deter those of us committed to the cause of human dignity for the unborn. We must redouble our efforts to foster a culture where women and children in crisis are cared for and all human life is cherished.“
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. — a Southern Baptist and the sponsor of the bill — described the vote as “an important step” despite the defeat.
“The vote was successful in putting each senator on record on the question of taxpayer funding for abortion,” Wicker said in a written statement. “I will continue to pursue this legislation because tax dollars should never be used to fund a practice so many find reprehensible.”
The roll call divided largely along party lines. Only two Democrats — Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — voted in favor, while only two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — cast votes in opposition. Five GOP members did not vote.
The vote came two days after 49 senators and 169 representatives sent letters to Trump thanking him for the pro-life policies of his administration and asking him to pledge publicly to veto any bill that undermines federal law on abortion or abortion funding.
The House has passed a ban on federal funding of abortion in the last three congressional sessions, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced the same legislation Jan. 17. The Senate has yet to hold a vote on final passage of the measure.
Banning government funding of abortion has proven effective in saving the lives of unborn children since the Hyde Amendment was enacted in 1976. That provision, which bars Medicaid funding of abortion and became the general label for such bans in health programs, has saved the lives of more than two million unborn babies, the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated on Hyde’s 40th anniversary in 2016.
Congress, however, has had to pass the Hyde Amendment and similar bans in other federal health programs each year as part of spending bills. The measure is named after its sponsor, the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois.
Democrats in the House have pledged to repeal the ban on abortion funding.
“We are going to end the Hyde Amendment,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., co-chairwoman of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Jan. 15, according to The Hill news website. “We intend to fight aggressively to reverse the terrible decisions by the Trump administration, and frankly previous administrations, going back 40 years.”
In a Jan. 15 release, the annual Marist Poll on attitudes about abortion showed a majority of all Americans oppose any taxpayer funding of abortion by 54 to 39 percent.