House Holds Hearing on Bill Banning Tax-Funding of Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 8, 2011   |   6:47PM   |   Washington, DC

A House subcommittee held a hearing today on a bill that would combine several provisions banning federal taxpayer funding of abortions into one permanent law to ensure future sessions of Congress don’t undo the currently temporary provisions.

Sponsored by pro-life Reps. Chris Smith and Dan Lipinski, a Republican and Democrat respectively, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would compile all of the annual provisions that prevent federal funding of abortions into one piece of legislation.

The measure, which enjoys strong support from pro-life groups makes what are annual battles to stop abortion funding permanent federal law. When it comes to taxpayer funding of abortions from the federal government, pro-life advocates have to fight several battles annually in Congress to ensure abortions are not funded in programs ranging from HHS and USAID to health care and the District of Columbia.

When Congress changes hands from Republicans to Democrats, these provisions are sometimes lifted — as in the case of taxpayer funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, which is now currently allowed after years of prohibiting them.

Family Research Council fellow Cathy Ruse, a pro-life attorney, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and said her group favors the bill.

“That abortion is scandalous to many is understandable; that it is exceptionally controversial in the United States is beyond dispute. For these reasons, it is entirely appropriate that abortions not be subsidized in any way by the federal government,” she said.

“President Obama has urged Americans to find common ground on the controversial issue of abortion. Americans have come together, 67 percent of us, in what may be the only truly bi-partisan agreement possible: That whatever our differences on abortion, we can agree that the federal government should not subsidize it. This is the common ground on abortion in America. H.R. 3 would make that common ground statutory law,” she added.

Ruse, and Rich Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who also testified, said the legislation is needed to protect the rights of medical workers.

“H.R. 3 also codifies the Hyde-Weldon conscience protection amendment existing since 2004 to prevent government discrimination against healthcare providers who do not participate in abortions,” she said.

During the hearing, pro-life Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio confronted Sarah Rosenbaum of the George Washington University School of Public Health, who testified for Democrats, about the horrors found at the abortion business run by Philadelphia-based abortion practitioner Kermit Gosnell. He talked about how Gosnell injured women in botched abortions and engaged in the “snipping” of the spinal cords of unborn children purposefully born so they could be killed shortly after birth.

“I don’t see the connection between what is a terrible, terrible story and the bill, which involves tax dollars,” she said.

Chabot asked Rosenbaum whether the practices Gosnell engaged in should be legal and she froze and was unable to answer the question.

Congressman Steve King asked Rosenbaum about the kind of second-trimester abortion procedure that involves the dismemberment of unborn children in the womb and asked her whether she believed such an abortion procedure ought to be funded at taxpayer expense.

“I am not prepared today to answer this question,” she said, adding that she was not aware of any such abortions done at taxpayer expense.

King said if he could establish that such late abortions were funded at taxpayer expense would Rosenbaum still press for public funding of abortions.

“I am truly having trouble following the question,” she said.

The Smith legislation has come under considerable attack from abortion advocates and Planned Parenthood. They have based their attacks on the bill on false claims that it would not allow abortion funding for all women who are victims of rape and incest because of changes to the definition of rape under the bill. However, the changed language has been dropped from the bill, neutralizing the issue.

“For over 30 years, a patchwork of policies has regulated federal funding for abortion. Together these various policies ensure that the American taxpayer is not involved in funding the destruction of innocent human life through abortion on demand,” Congressman Smith said last year in a letter to colleagues that obtained.

“This comprehensive approach will reduce the need for the numerous separate abortion funding policies and ensure that no program or agency is exempt from this important safeguard,” he added. “This new legislation will make permanent the policies that currently rely on regular re-approval.”

The bill essentially could be called a Hyde Amendment Plus, as it wraps together the Hyde Amendment, related to programs funded through the HHS appropriations, along with the Helms amendment, which applies to overseas programs, the Smith FEHBP amendment to stop abortion funding in federal employee health insurance programs, the Dornan amendment prohibiting abortion funding in the District of Columbia, and other policies governing programs such as the Peace Corp and federal prisons.

Only an act of Congress to reverse the law would reinstate the abortion funding.

The new comprehensive abortion funding ban will also apply to the new national health care program President Barack Obama signed into law.

And it would codify the conscience clause known as Hyde-Weldon offering protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortions — something Smith told his fellow members of Congress is important.

“The conscience clause ensures that recipients of federal funding do not discriminate against health care providers, including doctors, nurses and hospitals, because the providers do not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions,” Smith said.