USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat: Congress must prevent taxpayer-funded abortion

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an opportunity to vote on a prohibition of taxpayer-funded abortion.

On Tuesday evening, House Republican leadership and the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus co-chairs filed a motion to force debate and a full House vote on H.R. 18, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). The members asked for a unanimous consent request to discharge the bill from committee and hold debate and a vote by the full chamber.

On Wednesday, House Democratic leadership blocked the motion to hold a vote on H.R. 18, through a “previous question” procedural maneuver. The vote to kill the maneuver – and hold a vote on the abortion funding prohibition – failed by nine votes, 218-209. Every House Democrat voted in favor of the maneuver, with the exception of Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) who did not vote.

“It is gravely wrong to force all Americans to pay for the killing of innocent babies with their tax dollars,” said Kat Talalas with the U.S. bishops’ conference Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“Most Americans oppose using their tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, and the failure of the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 18 is unjustifiable,” Talalas said. “Congress must act to protect millions of babies and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion and protect American taxpayers from paying for the destruction of innocent human life.” 

Smith on Tuesday evening spoke on the House floor in favor of his bill. Smith is the founder and one of the four co-chairs of the House Congressional Pro-Life Caucus; the other co-chairs are Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), and new co-chairs Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.), and Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.).

“By reason of their age, dependency, immaturity, inconvenience, fragility and/or unwantedness, unborn children have been denied justice—and the most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life. The right to life is for everyone not just the planned, the privileged or the perfect,” Smith said.

“With deep respect for my colleagues, I believe unborn children need the President of the United States and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to be their friends and advocates—not powerful adversaries,” he said.

Republicans plan to use the “unanimous consent” procedure in the future to request a vote on H.R. 18. House Republicans used the same procedure to request a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in 2019 and 2020, but were denied a vote on the pro-life bill dozens of times.

The failure of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act comes after President Biden’s budget request to Congress excluded the Hyde Amendment – a long-standing federal policy that prohibits federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid. The policy has become law each year by being attached to appropriations bills as a budget rider.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton submitted a budget request that excluded the Hyde amendment, but an amended version of the policy was later included and signed into law as part of the appropriations legislation.

House Democrats have promised to repeal the Hyde amendment in 2021, passing appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year that do not include the measure.

“We’re going to fight with everything we have to preserve Hyde protections,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said on June 16.

Smith said that, according to studies, Hyde has prevented millions of abortions.

“More than twenty peer-reviewed studies show that more than 2.4 million people are alive today in the United States because of the Hyde Amendment—with about 60,000 babies spared death by abortion every year,” Smith said on Tuesday evening.

“Years ago, then-Senator Biden wrote to constituents explaining his support for the Hyde amendment and said it would ‘protect both the woman and her unborn child,’” Smith said, quoting from a 1994 letter by then-Senator Joe Biden to a constituent.

Biden, in his letter, said he voted 50 times in favor of the Hyde amendment, and told constituents that “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.”

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“I absolutely agree—those of us opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” Smith said.

Other pro-life policies could be at risk in the 2022 fiscal year budget process. The House Appropriations Finance Committee is advancing a funding bill for the District of Columbia and various government offices, but without the Smith Amendment, which prohibits funding of abortion coverage in the federal employees health benefits program. It also would exclude the Dornan amendment, which blocks federal funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.

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