Pro-life groups praised the Senate on Wednesday for narrowly approving language against taxpayer-funded abortion.

The language was part of a budget resolution, a procedural step toward eventual passage of the Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion spending package for the 2022 fiscal year. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the pro-life amendment, which was included in the resolution by a vote of 50-49.

Lankford’s amendment is non-binding, but some pro-life leaders saw its passage as significant as they work to prevent Congress from including abortion funding in next year’s budget.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund abortions or to subsidize the dangerous work of abortionists,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Denise Burke on Wednesday.

“In the wake of the House of Representatives’ recent rejection of the Hyde and Weldon amendments, we are especially pleased to see the Senate vote in favor of bipartisan policies that support women and protect human life,” Burke stated.

The Hyde and Weldon amendments are pro-life policies typically included as attachments to federal budget bills. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid. The Weldon Amendment functions as a conscience protection in health care; it restricts funding of state and local governments that discriminate against health care workers or organizations opposed to abortion.

Both policies are a normally part of federal spending bills, but the House excluded both of them from spending bills for the coming fiscal year. Pro-life groups are working to include them in Senate spending bills.

The budget resolution that passed the Senate on Wednesday simply sets federal spending levels for the 2022 fiscal year and beyond, and is not the text of the actual federal budget itself. It allows congressional committees to write legislation to fit these spending levels for various government agencies and programs.

Lankford’s amendment creates a deficit-neutral reserve fund and allows – but does not require – the Senate budget committee chair to prohibit funding of abortions consistent with the Hyde Amendment. It also includes similar language supporting the Weldon Amendment.

More in US

Once the full budget package is considered by Congress in the coming weeks, pro-life leaders have expressed concern that it could funnel billions of dollars toward abortion providers and abortion coverage. Wednesday’s vote was seen as a marker, setting members on the record for or against federal funding of abortions in the 2022 fiscal year budget.

The White House on Wednesday would not give a reaction to the inclusion of Lankford’s amendment in the resolution. Owen Jensen, White House correspondent for EWTN News Nightly, had asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the amendment.

“I don't think I'm going to negotiate from here.  The President's position on Hyde is well known and we've stated many times publicly,” Psaki responded. When Jensen tried to follow up, Psaki refused to answer further.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), seen as a key Democratic swing vote, voted for Lankford’s amendment, as did moderate Republican senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

In response, pro-life groups on Wednesday praised the amendment’s passage, and Manchin’s support for it.

“We thank Senator Manchin for being the notable exception by standing up for unborn children, their mothers, and pro-life American taxpayers today,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

(Story continues below)

Democrats for Life of America tweeted their praise of Manchin on Tuesday evening.

The group’s executive director Kristen Day, meanwhile, criticized Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) for opposing the amendment.

“It is a sad day. @SenBobCasey has officially sold his soul to the abortion lobby voting for abortion funding, killing viable preborn infants after 20 weeks, and voting to allow ending the lives of children with down syndrome. What would his father say?” Day tweeted.

While a COVID relief package that passed Congress earlier this year funded abortions, the threat of abortion funding is even greater now, Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told CNA last week. 

“I’m trying to make sure that people understand that this time around, it’s an even bigger threat,” he said.

He explained that by not including Hyde Amendment language blocking abortion funding in the budget package, billions of dollars in health care spending could fund abortions in Medicaid and other programs.

Other senators introduced pro-life amendments to the budget resolution, but those were not agreed to.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) offered an amendment to create a deficit-neutral reserve fund, establishing penalties for providers performing abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization or thereafter. Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) amendment created a deficit-neutral reserve fund, which could be used to prohibit funding of abortions of children with Down syndrome.

Kennedy’s amendment failed by a vote of 48-51, with Manchin supporting it and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voting against it. Inhofe’s amendment failed by a vote of 49-50, with Collins voting against it.