The Protect Life Act, a Congressional bill that would zap the abortion funding the Obamacare health care reform legislation allows, got the spotlight Wednesday afternoon in a House hearing.
The measure is the second pro-life bill House Republicans have taken up in key hearings in two days – and the attention the Protect Life Act received follows the hearing on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, which would eliminate federal funding of abortions throughout the federal government.
Republicans and Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health sparred over the measure., HR 358, sponsored by the subcommittee’s chairman, pro-life Republican Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. Republican lawmakers pointed to the Stupak amendment the House added to its version of the Obamacare bill as proof there is substantial support for removing any concerns the Obamacare law will fund abortions while Democrats relied on scare tactics by saying the Protect Life Act would somehow result in women losing their ability to purchase health care insurance that may cover abortions with premiums.
“The debate today isn’t about tax dollars or provider conscience,” Rep. Lois Capps, a pro-abortion California Democrat, claimed. “Instead, it’s about chipping away at the legal rights of women.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Republican, defended the measure, saying it would not only eliminate any abortion funding in the health care law but would also protect the conscience rights of medical workers who do not want to be involved in abortions and “ensures that private insurance companies are not forced to cover abortion.”
Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess, chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus and a former OBGYN, also spoke in favor of the measure and said it was needed to attach the Hyde Amendment, which even some pro-abortion lawmakers support, to the Obamacare bill.
“I think it is important to codify with this language that we are responsible for the judicious use of taxpayer dollars,” Burgess said.
Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law, and a former spokeswoman for the pro-life office of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops testified on the pro-life side along with Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.
On the pro-abortion side, Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University testifed again for committee Democrats. Rosenbaum was embarrassed on Tuesday in the hearing on the taxpayer funding abortion ban when she was unable to answer questions about whether gruesome late abortions should be funded with taxpayer dollars.
The hearing followed a press conference several Democrats and key leaders of pro-abortion groups jointly sponsored to lob more verbal grenades at the bill.
Neither the Protect Life Act nor the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act have yet been scheduled for a vote, but pro-life groups expect a vote soon and believe the bills will move ahead through the committee process to the House floor, where approval is also expected. The bigger question would be whether pro-abortion Democrats who control the Senate will allow votes on the measures or whether Senate Republicans will be forced to try to attach the legislation as amendments to other bills.
Meanwhile, the pro-life group Catholic Advocate Voice today launched a new web site, ProtectLifeAct.org designed to give Americans the opportunity to join together to demonstrate their support for the legislation.
“We have said for months relying on an Executive Order is not effective in protecting the sanctity of life in the health care law,” said Catholic Advocate Voice Vice President Matt Smith. “‘The Protect Life Act’ is a positive step in restoring the Hyde amendment language to the health care bill and protecting the unborn.”00
He told LifeNews.com, “The Protect Life Act was re-introduced in the House of Representatives on January 20, 2011 to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. The bill also provides conscience protection for any institution or individual refusing to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, require or provide such training, or refer for such training.
“Any pro-life Member of Congress who voted for the health care reform law should support this bill,” added Smith. “The Executive Order was a bait and switch recently confirmed by the President’s former chief of staff. The Protect Life Act will finally codify these protections and remove any doubt about taxpayer funded abortions opposed by an overwhelming majority of Americans.”
The Protect Life Act has been endorsed by the USCCB, the Catholic Health Association (CHA), and numerous national and state pro-life organizations and leaders.
Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts was joined by Reps. Blackburn, Burgess, Cassidy, Gingrey, Guthrie, Latta, Myrick, McMorris Rodgers, T. Murphy, and Upton.