Senate Vote Next Week on Stopping Abortion Funding in Indian Health Care Bill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 22, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Vote Next Week on Stopping Abortion Funding in Indian Health Care Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 22
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — The Senate will take up a bill next week on health care coverage for Native Americans and, when it does, a pro-life senator plans an amendment to make sure none of the funds pay for abortions. The amendment from Sen. David Vitter would codify a longstanding policy against funding of abortions with federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funds.

The language of the Vitter amendment follows that of the Hyde amendment, which prohibits direct funding of abortion under Medicaid except in very rare cases when the mother is a victim of rape or incest or when the pregnancy threatens her life.

According to Douglas Johnson, the director of legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, the IHS is funded through the separate Interior appropriations bill.

As a result, it has never carried the Hyde amendment and the bill funded abortions well after the Hyde amendment was first enacted in 1976.

The Reagan Administration curbed the practice administratively in 1982, as a temporary fix, Johnson said. In 1988, Congress said that the Hyde amendment would apply to the IHS bill.

Benjamin Clapper, the director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, told, "This is a very important vote on abortion funding in the Senate."

The Vitter amendment is important to make sure that the abortion funding limits become federal law.

With a presidential election at hand and two Democratic candidates who strongly support funding abortions with taxpayer funds, there is nothing that could stop them from changing the current regulations unless a federal law prohibiting the funding is in place.

"Currently, no federal money is allowed to fund abortion directly," Clapper says. "However, unless the suitable language of the Vitter Amendment is inserted, future presidents and Congresses maybe able to construe the language differently and reverse the standing policy of the Hyde Amendment."

Meanwhile, Johnson wrote to members of Congress last month and provided a copy of his letter to

"NRLC urges adoption of Senator Vitter’s amendment, which would codify the longstanding policy," he wrote.

He told lawmakers, "if you are opposed to direct federal funding of abortion on demand, you should support the Vitter Amendment."

"Rejection of the Vitter Amendment would have the effect of leaving the door open to future federal funding of abortion on demand by the IHS," he concluded.

Johnson told senators that the vote on the Vitter amendment would be included in the scorecard of Congressional votes NRLC tabulates at the end of every Congressional session.

According to Johnson, pro-abortion lawmakers are expected to offer an alternative amendment to Vitter’s that would muddy up the process and he hopes the Vitter amendment will be adopted alone.

ACTION: Contact your two U.S. senators and urge strong support for the Vitter amendment. Call 202-224-3121 to connect with any senator’s office or visit