Friday, July 31, 2020

Life issues in the H.R. 7617 Appropriations Minibus

This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 217-197 the appropriations omnibus H.R. 7617, the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021.

The bill contains several provisions that attack longstanding pro-life protections and seek to undermine pro-life executive actions.

MANAGER’S AMENDMENT – Sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and considered adopted by the rule.

The manager’s amendment contains language striking down two rules issued by the Trump Administration that provide expanded conscience exemptions from the Health & Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate for employers with religious or moral objections. This language is included in the amendment in spite of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 8, 2020, and finding that the Trump Administration “had the authority under the [Affordable Care Act] to promulgate the religious and moral exemptions.”

DIVISION D – Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations

Dornan Amendment: H.R. 7617 alters the Dornan Amendment (also known as the D.C. Hyde Amendment), which prevents appropriated funds (federal or D.C. revenue) from paying for abortion in the District of Columbia. H.R. 7617 inserts the word “federal” into the Dornan Amendment. In doing so, it would allow appropriated local funds to pay for abortion. The Dornan Amendment was gutted in a similar way from 2009 through part of 2011. During that period of time, D.C. paid for 300 abortions, as reported by the Associated Press.

DIVISION F – Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations

Title X (Protect Life) Rule: On February 22, 2019, The Department of Health and Human Services released the final rule for the Title X family planning program, also known as the Protect Life Rule. Under the former regulations, Title X was a slush fund for abortion providers. (Planned Parenthood received nearly $60 million in Title X funds annually.)

H.R. 7617 requires the Title X family planning program to be administered as it was during the Obama Administration, and it requires funding to be returned to groups that lost it under the Protecting Life Rule. It also requires Title X grantees to provide information about abortion to every patient with a positive pregnancy test.

Conscience Protection Rule: On May 21, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services published a final rule (84 FR 23170) that would enforce approximately 25 existing statutory civil rights protections for Americans involved in programs that receive HHS funding. Such laws protect health care providers from suffering discrimination if they do not want to participate in abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide. H.R. 7617 overturns the Conscience Protection Rule.

Section 1557 Rule: On June 19, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services published in the federal register a rule amending Obama-era regulations related to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This rule is currently the subject of three lawsuits. Among other things, the rule clarifies that Section 1557 shall not force health care entities receiving federal funding to provide or pay for an abortion. It shall also be consistent with the First Amendment and with pro-life provisions, conscience provisions and religious liberty protections in current law. H.R. 7617 overturns the Section 1557 Rule.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Funding: TPP is funded at $101 million (consistent with FY20 funding levels.) It has been a funding stream for Planned Parenthood. Its programs have been ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy, STDs, and risky behavior, and its curricula may actively support abortion and undermine parental involvement. H.R. 7617 adds new language to prevent grantees wishing to teach sexual abstinence.

Sexual Risk Avoidance Funding: Sexual risk avoidance, defined as “voluntarily refraining from non-marital sexual activities,” received $25 million in the FY20. All funding is cut in H.R. 7617.

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