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House OKs bill with pro-life provisions

WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life leaders cheered passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of spending legislation that bans federal money for abortion providers and promoters, including Planned Parenthood.

The House voted 235-189 early Feb. 19 on a continuing resolution to extend funding for federal agencies until the end of the fiscal year. Congress failed to pass a budget last year, adopting instead a resolution that continued funding for the federal government through March 4. The newly approved resolution would provide funds for the government to operate through Sept. 30.

Included in the House-passed overall bill that cut about $61 billion from last year’s spending level were the following pro-life measures:

— Prohibition of all funds under the resolution for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates, a network that constitutes the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.

— Reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which would bar federal money for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas.

— Restoration of a ban on funds for the United Nations Population Fund, which has been found to support China’s coercive population control program.

— Reinstitution of a prohibition on the use of federal and congressionally approved local funds for elective abortions in the District of Columbia.

The House adopted the ban on federal funds for Planned Parenthood as an amendment Feb. 18. The roll-call vote was 240-185. The other pro-life provisions were part of the original resolution offered by the new Republican leadership.

“Elections have consequences,” Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said of the House’s pro-life actions. “The American people elected 87 new Republican congressmen, which is 20 percent of the House membership. They are largely responsible for this being the most pro-life Congress during my 22-year tenure at the [Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission].

“This legislation is a direct result of the American people, who are becoming more pro-life with every passing year, electing representatives who are more pro-life. That’s the way representative government is supposed to work,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commended the spending cuts in the bill, adding in a written statement it “also fights back against the culture of death that has grown even larger under [President Obama]. House Republican [leaders] and all those who voted positively today deserve our sincere thanks.”

Planned Parenthood and its abortion-rights allies decried the House’s pro-life votes.

PPFA President Cecile Richards called the amendment defunding her organization “an extreme and dangerous piece of legislation.”

“It now falls to Senators from both parties to join together to reject this extreme approach, restore common sense and guarantee that Planned Parenthood and the millions of Americans who count on us for health care are protected,” Richards said in a written release.

The pro-life provisions in the spending bills are likely to find strong opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate. If senators pass a continuing resolution that differs from that of the House, which is expected, a conference committee of members of both chambers will negotiate to present a final bill to their colleagues.

The defunding of Planned Parenthood was the most noteworthy of the pro-life victories in the spending debate and vote. It was apparently the first time ever a chamber of Congress has voted to defund the organization, which recorded more than 324,000 abortions at its clinics in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

PPFA and its affiliates received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts during the 2008-09 fiscal year. Some of that total came from state and local governments.

The continuing resolution also included a provision eliminating funds for both Title X, the federal government’s family planning program, and implementation of last year’s health care reform law. PPFA is the leading recipient of Title X funds. Although Title X funds do not go directly for abortions, pro-life advocates contend federal money frees up other contributions to Planned Parenthood for the promotion and performance of abortions.

House approval of the amendment to defund PPFA followed nearly three weeks of damaging publicity for the organization. Hidden-camera videos secretly recorded at six of the organization’s clinics and released Feb. 1-8 showed employees demonstrating an apparent willingness to aid sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens.

Live Action — a youth-driven pro-life organization — released video footage from secret investigations at clinics in New Jersey, New York and Virginia that showed Planned Parenthood staff signaling cooperation with a self-described pimp in providing birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and/or abortions for his alleged under-age sex workers. An undercover audio from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., released Feb. 10 revealed a similar response from a staff member.

PPFA had recently issued new rules requiring at least one clinic per affiliate to perform abortions.

The roll call on the defunding amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., was largely along party lines. Ten Democrats joined 230 Republicans in supporting the proposal, while 7 GOP members voted with 178 Democrats in opposition.

The Democrats who voted for Pence’s amendment were Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jerry Costello of Illinois, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Heath Shuler of North Carolina

The Republicans who opposed the amendment were Reps. Charles Bass of New Hampshire, Judy Biggert of Illinois, Mary Bono Mack of California, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Robert Dold of Illinois, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Richard Hanna of New York.

The roll call on the overall spending bill was even closer to a party-line vote. All 235 votes in favor were from Republicans, while three GOP members joined 186 Democrats in opposition.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.