House Committee Passes Bill to End Tax Funding of Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 3, 2011   |   3:56PM   |   Washington, DC

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill today on a mostly partisan 23-14 vote that would ban taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal government departments and programs.

The panel voted for H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” after first rejecting pro-abortion amendments to weaken or water down the legislation. The committee also removed a provision concerning forcible rape that abortion advocates had used to misconstrue the intent of the legislation.

HR 3 is a government-wide permanent prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortion introduced by Reps. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, and Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat.

The legislation had 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.

The party-line vote saw Republicans on the panel supporting the measure and Democrats on the committee voting against it, with the exception of Puerto Rico Del. Pedro Pierluisi. The vote now sends the legislation to the House floor, where it is expected to easily pass and be sent to the Senate. That’s where the difficulty in moving the legislation forward will begin because Senate Democrats are led by and controlled by abortion backers who may not allow a vote on the bill.

Pro-life senators may have to attempt to attach the language of the bill to another measure and would likely have to find 60 votes to cut off debate and end what would be a potential filibuster from abortion advocates.

During the committee debate, some of the Democrats on the panel falsely contended the measure would ban abortions outright, even though it only applies to government funding of abortions.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, said the bill does not ban abortion: “H.R. 3 does not ban abortion. It also does not restrict abortions, or abortion coverage in healthcare plans, as long as those abortions or plans use only private or state funds. Now is the time for Congress to pass one piece of legislation that prohibits the federal funding of abortions and prohibits the use of fiscal policy to encourage or subsidize abortions.”

After the vote, Smith told he was thankful for the committee approving the bill.

“I want to thank my good friend, Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) for his leadership on the Judiciary Committee and his unwavering defense of the right to life for all human beings,” Smith said. “I also thank Chairman Lamar Smith and my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for their strong support of this important bill which will ensure that taxpayers are not complicit in paying for the taking of innocent human life.”
“Abortion is not health care. And polls show that taxpayers strongly oppose publically funded abortion—67 percent according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll,” Smith said. “Our new bill is designed to permanently end any U.S. government financial support for abortion whether it be direct funding or by tax credits or any other subsidy.”
“President Obama has said he wants abortion to be rare,” Smith said. “Well, Mr. Obama, here is a bill for you. Even the Guttmacher Institute, the former research arm of Planned Parenthood, says that taxpayer funding bans are a proven abortion reduction method. According to Guttmacher, studies show that when abortion is not publically funded, abortions in the covered population are reduced by roughly 25 percent.”
The bill also codifies the Hyde-Weldon conscience clause that is part of the Hyde amendment. 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.
“The conscience clause is a critical part of the law which protects health care providers who do not want to take part in the abortion business,” Smith said. “Without it, people could be forced to participate in something they strongly believe to be morally wrong. Without it, faith-based hospitals could lose funding.”

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.

“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.”

During a subcommittee hearing on the bill in February, Family Research Council fellow Cathy Ruse, a pro-life attorney, testified for the legislation.

“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 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.

ACTION: Tell the members of the committee about your feelings on the vote to stop tax-funded abortions at