by Steven Ertelt
March 30, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A leading pro-life member of Congress plans an amendment to a bill on health care for Native Americans that’s similar to the language of an amendment the Senate approved last month. Rep. Joe Pitts wants to make sure the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (H.R. 1328) isn’t used to fund abortions with public money.
In late February, the Senate approved an amendment from Sen. David Vitter that would permanently prevent abortion funding at Indian health care service facilities.
It codifies longstanding policy against funding of abortions with federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funds.
The language of the Vitter amendment follows 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.
The IHS bill has never carried the Hyde amendment and the bill funded abortions well after the Hyde amendment was first enacted in 1976.
The Senate voted 52 to 42 for the Vitter amendment and Pitts wants the House to approve similar language so the final bill sent to President Bush will contain the permanent abortion funding ban.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will debate the IHS bill as early as this week and Pitts expected to offer his amendment as a member of the committee. Should it fail, Pitts would likely offer the amendment again on the House floor should the rules for debate allow it.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of National Right to Life, gave LifeNews.com a background on the abortion funding in the IHS bill.
The Reagan Administration curbed the practice of funding abortions through the IHS bill administratively in 1982, as a temporary fix, Johnson said. In 1988, Congress said that the Hyde amendment would apply to the IHS bill.
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.
Defeat of the amendment, Johnson says, "would have the effect of leaving the door open to future federal funding of abortion on demand by the IHS."
ACTION: Contact the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and urge strong support for the Pitts amendment to stop taxpayer-funded abortions in the IHS bill. Click here for a list of the committee members and call 202-224-3121 or see https://www.house.gov to find specific contact information for your Representative.