Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Progress made for the cause of Life in the House's version of the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill

This evening the House Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services bill. In addition to continuing longstanding riders like the Hyde and Dickey-Wicker amendments, Chairman Cole’s bill includes several new pro-life policies not currently in effect, such as:

  • The Conscience Protection Act
  • Stopping funding for fetal tissue research from induced abortion
  • Prohibiting abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving any funding made available through the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill
  • Prohibiting funding for the Title X program

During the markup, multiple amendments were offered to strip these pro-life policies from the bill. In each instance, the hostile amendment was defeated and the pro-life language was retained.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment that would strip numerous policies from the bill, including the provision that prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving funds (Sec. 529). The Lee amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

During the debate, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) spoke about the experience in his state with community health centers outnumbering Planned Parenthood centers. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) also spoke in support of the provision barring funds to Planned Parenthood.

Later in the markup, Rep. Katherine Clarke (D-MA) offered an amendment to specifically strike section 529. Chairman Cole (R-OK), Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) spoke in support of defunding Planned Parenthood. The Clarke amendment failed 23-28, with all Democratic Members and one Republican (Dent) voting in favor of the Clarke amendment, 28 Republicans opposing.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment to fund Title X at current levels. The Chairman’s bill barred funding to Title X, which is a significant funding stream for Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in America. The program was established in 1970 to provide family planning for low income individuals, but the authorization lapsed 30 years ago. The Lowey amendment was defeated 23-27; all Democratic Members and one Republican (Dent) voted to restore funding for Title X, 27 Republicans opposed.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) offered an amendment to strike the Conscience Protection Act (CPA). CPA protects the rights of health care entities that do not participate in abortion. This language is needed in light of ongoing discriminatory actions – such as the California, New York and Oregon abortion mandates. The private right of action is necessary to make sure the protections of current conscience laws, including the Weldon amendment, are enforced. The language in the Chairman’s bill is identical to the Conscience Protection Act (S. 304) as passed by the House 245-182 on July 13, 2016. During the debate Chairman Cole, Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE), Rep. Harris (R-MD) and Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-WA) spoke in support of the Conscience Protection Act. The Wasserman Schultz amendment was defeated 21-29, all present Republicans and one Democratic Member (Cuellar) voted to retain the Conscience Protection Act, 21 Democrats voted against.

Rep. Lowey offered an amendment to bar funding from the implementation of any new rule with regard to the HHS Contraceptive services mandate. Last month a draft was leaked of a new HHS rule to provide relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and other employers who do not wish to cover contraceptive drugs, including the morning-after and week-after pills, based on religious or moral objections. The Lowey amendment was defeated 22-29 along party lines.

Rep. Pocan (D-WI) offered an amendment to strip the pro-life language stopping research on fetal tissue from induced abortion. Over the course of its year-long investigation into the relationship between abortion businesses and fetal tissue procurement companies, the House Select Panel on Infant Lives found evidence of unethical practices in the harvesting of fetal organs and trafficking fetal parts. This provision to stop federal funding of aborted fetal tissue research acts on the recommendations of the Select Investigative Panel’s findings and recommendations. Chairman Cole and Rep. Roby spoke in defense of the pro-life language. The Pocan amendment was defeated by voice vote.

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