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POLICY DIGEST: ERLC endorses pro-life bills

WASHINGTON (BP) – A trio of pro-life bills, endorsed by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, were either introduced, reintroduced or passed on Thursday, Jan. 18.

The Pregnancy Center Support Act was introduced to the Senate on Thursday, while the Unborn Child Support Act was reintroduced the same day. Additionally, the previously introduced Pregnant Students’ Rights Act passed the House on Thursday.

These updates took place one day before the annual March for Life, and three days before Sanctity of Life Sunday on the SBC Calendar.

Hannah Daniel, ERLC public policy director, praised the work of the lawmakers involved with the bills.

“At a time when lawmakers have been timid to voice pro-life convictions, I was encouraged to see legislative activity pushing forward the cause of life last week,” Daniel said.

“At the ERLC, we are celebrating the passage of the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act along with the introduction of the Pregnancy Center Support Act and the Unborn Child Support Act. These bills recognize the dignity and personhood of the preborn and also tangibly assist new mothers and families to choose life.”

House passes Pregnant Students’ Rights Act

The bill known as the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act passed the House Jan. 18 by a vote of 212 to 207, with only Republican support.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA) in early 2022, requires public institutions of higher education that participate in federal student-aid programs to provide information to admitted and enrolled students about the available rights and resources for students who are pregnant or may become pregnant. These rights and resources must exclude abortion services.

The institution must also establish a protocol to meet with students who believe they have been discriminated against based on pregnancy. They must also provide pregnancy-related questions to enrolled students and annually submit compiled responses to the Department of Education.

Hinson, a mother of two, called the issue “personal” while speaking the House floor in support of the bill.

“When you’re pregnant, there are a million questions racing through your head,” Hinson said.

“From doctor’s appointments to new financial responsibilities, pregnant students have so much on their plate as they work to balance school and having a healthy pregnancy. Unfortunately, many pregnant women on college campuses are pressured into having an abortion and told they must choose between having their baby and continuing their education, despite Title IX protections.

“Under Title IX, pregnant students have the right to stay in school, finish their education, and achieve their career goals. However, academic disparity exists due to the lack of resources, support, and tools for pregnant students. These women may fear institutional reprisal, loss of athletic scholarships, or negative impacts on their academic opportunity and standing.

These fears and anxieties are not only unjust to the women, but a poor reflection of how our higher education institutions treat pregnant students. Higher education institutions and universities have a responsibility to empower all their students to succeed – including pregnant students.”

Pregnancy Center Support Act introduced to the Senate

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) introduced the Pregnancy Center Support Act on Jan. 18.

The bill would implement a tax credit in order to encourage and incentivize voluntary contributions to pregnancy resource centers around the country.

According to a press release, the Pregnancy Center Support Act would:

  • Allow for a nonrefundable tax credit (i.e. a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed) of 50 percent of contributions to qualifying pregnancy centers, up to $10,000 in donations per year ($20,000 for joint filers), for individuals and businesses.
  • Allow the credit to be available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they itemize or take the standard deduction. For filers who itemize, amounts taken into account for this credit could not be double counted for the charitable contribution deduction. Any amounts of the credit that exceed taxes owed may be carried forward up to five years for individuals.

Hyde-Smith, chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, spoke to the bill’s importance in a post-Roe America.

“The life-affirming impact of pregnancy centers is considerable and growing following the Dobbs decision that allows life-saving laws to take effect across America,” Hyde-Smith said in a press release.

“Despite what the radical pro-abortion left wants us to believe, the pro-life movement is also a pro-woman movement with a long history of empowering women during pregnancy and after. This legislation builds on that history by creating the means for pregnancy centers to access much-needed resources to meet the growing demands of supporting women and families in a post-Roe America.”

Unborn Child Support Act introduced to the Senate

Also on Jan. 18, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) reintroduced the Unborn Child Support Act.

Originally introduced to the Senate by Cramer in 2022, the bill would allow mothers to receive child support from the father of the child during pregnancy.

According to a press release, the act would require judges to consult with mothers on payment plans and give mothers discretion as to whether or not child support payments will be awarded retroactively.

Additionally, the bill would direct all paternity tests be at the discretion of the mother and not be conducted if the test puts the child at risk.

“New mothers and unborn children deserve care from conception, and child support should reflect this. Modifying child support laws to allow pregnant mothers to receive it is common sense and long overdue,” Cramer said in a press release.

“Instead of imposing mandates, our bill empowers mothers by giving them the choice to receive pre-natal child support. Now, more than ever, there is a greater responsibility for Congress to pass legislation to protect and support mothers and children.”