Saturday, July 14, 2018

Pro-Life Provisions in the LHHS Appropriations Bill

This week the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) funding bill. The Chairman’s bill included all longstanding pro-life provisions traditionally included in the LHHS appropriations bill, such as the Hyde Amendment (banning LHHS funding from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother) and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (banning funding from being used on research that harms human embryos).

It also contained several new pro-life policies not currently in effect. Five amendments were offered to strike or weaken these pro-life policies. In each instance, the hostile amendment was defeated and the pro-life policy was retained.

No Funds for Abortion Providers:

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment to restore funding to the Title X family planning program. Title X funding currently goes through organizations that also promote and may even provide abortion.

While the LHHS bill eliminates funding for the current Title X funding program, Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) noted that the Administration has issued a proposed rule to modify Title X requirements consistent with the fact that abortion is not family planning. Chairman Cole stated that “the choice is up to the grantees. They can either agree to separate abortion out of Title X activities and continue to receive taxpayer assistance or forgo government funding.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) added her strong support for the Administration’s proposed rule, saying “abortion is not family planning.”

The Lowey Amendment was defeated 22-29 along party lines.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) offered an amendment to strike the provision from the bill that would bar funds to abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood (Sec. 533).

Chairman Cole spoke in defense of the provision, stating that “this prohibition of funding does not reduce funding for women’s health services. Organizations can continue to provide cancer screenings and other reproductive health services. They just must choose between those services and abortions.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) noted that the provision does not name Planned Parenthood. He said, “I guess it’s just that Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, just refuses to divest itself of the abortion industry.”

Rep. Roby also strongly supported the provision.

The Clark Amendment was defeated 22-29 along party lines.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment to restore funding to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program.  The bill currently does not fund TPP and provides $30 million for education in sexual risk avoidance. Unfortunately, TPP grants are a funding source for Planned Parenthood. TPP programs also have been ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy, STDs, and risky behavior, and TPP curricula may actively support abortion and undermine parental involvement.

The Lee Amendment was defeated 21-29 along party lines.

No Funding for Aborted Fetal Tissue Research:

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) offered an amendment to strike the provision in the bill that stops funding for fetal tissue research from induced abortion (Section 532).

Rep. Cole defended the bill’s language saying, “this protection will ensure that federally funded research does not enable the abortion industry to profit from the taking of human life”

Rep. Roby pointed out that Section 532 “is aimed at removing any incentive abortion providers might have to harvest and sell baby body parts.”

In response to opponents’ arguments that undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress were heavily edited, Rep. Harris pointed out that you don’t make up a “basin of arms and legs taken from aborted babies” and the “invoices where there were charges of $800 for a fetal brain… There was no allegation that invoice was doctored or made up.” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) also spoke in defense of the provision and noted that investigations are ongoing.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) quoted from an abortion provider who described crushing “above and below” the baby’s head in order to obtain fetal tissue. She added “We need to go where science is leading us. And they’re telling us that they don’t need pieces of babies to do their research.”

The Pocan Amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

Conscience Protection Act

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) offered an amendment to strike the Conscience Protection Act (CPA), which protects the rights of health care entities that do not participate in abortion (Section 534).

Chairman Cole defended CPA, explaining that it is necessary “due to numerous recent events in which individuals and institutions that are deeply opposed to abortion have been subjected to discrimination and left without the ability to seek relief in court. These protections are needed now…”

The Wasserman Schultz Amendment was defeated 21-31. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) joined all 30 Republicans in voting against the amendment.

Report language accompanying the appropriations bill expanded on the “numerous recent events” Chairman Cole mentioned in his statement, saying: The Committee is concerned that the State of California, State of New York, State of Oregon, and State of Washington are requiring insurance providers to cover elective abortions. Furthermore, the Committee is aware that the State of California has enacted a law that requires pregnancy centers to refer patients for free or low-cost state-funded abortions. These laws, policies, and requirements appear to violate the Weldon Amendment…the Committee directs the Secretary to fully investigate and resolve potential violations of the Weldon Amendment and report findings back to Congress.” (Emphasis added.)

The bill’s report also commends HHS for establishing the division on Conscience and Religious Liberty within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and urges HHS to finalize the proposed rule to enhance enforcement of existing conscience laws.

During the markup Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) offered an amendment to prevent government entities from discriminating against providers of child welfare services, such as adoption agencies, on the basis of their religious beliefs. This amendment contained the substance of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881), sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA). The Aderholt amendment was adopted 29-23.

The companion legislation on the Senate side is Senator Enzi’s bill, S. 811, also would allow Child-Placing Agencies (CPAs) with sincerely held religious beliefs to live out their faith and consider religious beliefs when placing children in homes.

This is in response to an Obama administration rule change that took effect on January 11, 2017 expanding the non-discrimination clause of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (which provides funding for foster care and adoption) to include religion and sexual orientation which previously was only race, color, and national origin. This has resulted in faith-based CPAs being faced with the dilemma of no longer considering religious beliefs when placing children in homes at the risk of losing funding and possibly their CPA license.

A related court case, Dumont v. Lyon, is in the Eastern District Court of Michigan.

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