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Bills would bar federal funds for abortion

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life members of Congress reinforced Jan. 20 their intention to prohibit federal funding of abortion by introducing two bills, one that would accomplish the feat across the board and one that would do so in last year’s health-care law.

The introduction of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 3, and Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, came one day after the House of Representatives voted 245-189 to repeal the health-care measure dubbed “Obamacare” by its critics. One of the reasons for the effort to rescind the 2010 law was its authorization of subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., with 161 cosponsors, would institute a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funds and subsidies for abortion. It would serve to standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many of which have to be approved each year, and make certain the prohibition extends to all agencies.

The Protect Life Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., with 89 cosponsors, would amend last year’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to bar federal money from paying for abortion or abortion coverage.

Speaker of the House John Boehner called Smith’s bill “one of our highest legislative priorities” and designated it as H.R. 3 to demonstrate its importance.

“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortion is the will of the people and ought to be the law of the land,” Boehner said at a Jan. 20 news conference announcing its introduction.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) urged about 90 House members to sign on as original cosponsors of the government-wide funding ban.

“We find it unconscionable that a single taxpayer dollar be funneled for abortion,” ERLC President Richard Land said in a Jan. 19 letter to the House members. “With the adoption of the [Smith] bill, concerns on abortion funding would be significantly abated.”

If approved by the House, both legislative pieces face unpromising prospects in the Senate, which is not as pro-life as the House. In addition, President Obama would be expected to veto either bill that reached his desk.

Smith and Pitts both appealed to Obama regarding their proposed bans.

“President Obama said he wants abortions to be rare,” Smith said. “To Mr. Obama I say, ‘Here is a bill for you.'”

Smith cited a report by the Guttmacher Institute — a pro-choice research organization — that a ban on government funding of abortion reduces the number of procedures by 25 percent.

Pitts said Obama agreed with the goals of the bills and demonstrated it by issuing an executive order “trying to prove his support for prohibiting federal funding for abortion” after he signed health-care reform into law in March. “If he chooses to stand by his word, he should have no problem signing both bills into law,” Pitts said of the president.

Pro-life advocates inside and outside the House reject Obama’s executive order as ineffective. They point out the president could rescind his order at any time and contend the federal courts would rule in favor of the language in the law, not that in the executive order.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) also challenged Obama.

“If President Obama seeks to obstruct these bills, that will provide additional glaring evidence that his professions of opposition to public funding of abortion are phony,” NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said in a written statement.

Johnson also said, “Public opinion is strongly against federal subsidies for abortion, and any member of Congress who is truly opposed to federal funding of abortion will vote for both of these bills.”

Smith’s bill also would institute conscience clause protections for pro-life, health-care workers.

Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois is the lead Democratic cosponsor on both Smith and Pitts’ bills.

In another pro-life effort to halt abortion-related funding, Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., introduced Jan. 7 the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, H.R. 217. Pence’s bill would bar Title X family planning money from going to organizations that perform abortions. That would include Planned Parenthood, the leading Title X recipient and the country’s No. 1 abortion provider. As of Jan. 21, Pence’s bill had 149 cosponsors.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.