by Steven Ertelt
April 20, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Abortion advocates in the Senate backed down on a planned effort to repeal a law that protects health care providers from being forced to perform or pay for abortions. A pro-abortion lawmaker said she would look to other ways to overturn the law.
Contained in a spending bill signed by President Bush, the Hyde-Weldon provision says that the federal government can’t discriminate against doctors, hospitals or health insurance companies that do not want to perform or pay for abortions.
As a result, any federal, state or local agency that receives federal money would lose those funds if they engage in such discrimination.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, had hoped to have a vote on a bill Thursday that would have repealed the provision.
Sensing defeat, Boxer withdrew the proposal and said she hopes courts will overturn the law or that she can put forward another proposal at a later date.
"I intend to continue working on this critical issue until it is resolved," she said Thursday.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee told LifeNews.com, "Boxer saw she would lose by a few votes, so she made a face-saving retreat."
Despite the victory, Johnson said the battle is not over.
"The battle will be rejoined later in the year when the time comes to renew the anti-discrimination law," he said.
The Hyde-Weldon provision expires on September 30, but pro-life lawmakers are expected to seek an extension of the law.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had offered Boxer a vote to repeal the provision late last year. With Boxer declining, a spokesman for his office says Frist is under no obligation to allow her another chance.
"We consider our obligation fulfilled," Bob Stevenson told the Associated Press.
Abortion advocates were gearing up for a vote and had send lobbying emails to grassroots advocates urging calls and emails to lawmakers.
"Thanks to the leadership and commitment of Sen. Boxer, you have a chance to overturn the law," NARAL told its members. "Please take action in support of Boxer’s repeal today."
Ted Miller, a spokesman for the group, told AP that NARAL was merely, "making sure that people were prepared if Sen. Boxer called for the vote."
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, in January, filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association has filed another lawsuit and a federal judge held a hearing on that, also in January.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy made no decision in the case after hearing arguments from both sides about the implications of the new law.
Pro-life groups say the Hyde-Weldon law is necessary because abortion advocates have been attacking medical agencies and professionals who don’t want to be involved in abortion.