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Pro-Life Lawmakers Advance NRLC-Backed Measures in U.S. House, As Pro-Aborts Mount Defenses in Senate

Feb 27, 2011 | 02-February 2011 NRL News

NRL News
Page 1
February 2011
Volume 38
Issue 2

 

Pro-Life Lawmakers Advance NRLC-Backed Measures in U.S. House,
As Pro-Aborts Mount Defenses in Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 23, 2011)—Pro-life forces in Washington are on the move, as multiple pieces of pro-life legislation are advancing simultaneously in and through the U.S. House of Representatives—which is now controlled by a pro-life Republican majority.

However, pro-abortion forces are vowing to block the pro-life initiatives in the Senate, where Democrats still hold control, or by prevailing on President Obama to employ his veto pen.

An initial batch of pro-life victories occurred in the House during the third week of February. The House spent that week considering an appropriations bill (H.R. 1) to fund the entire federal government for the rest of the current federal fiscal year (through September 30).

When H.R. 1 reached the House floor, the bill already contained several important pro-life provisions sought by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), including language to restore the “Mexico City Policy,” which was a ban on giving foreign aid funds to private organizations that promote abortion overseas, overturned by President Obama in 2009; language to restore a ban on government-funded abortion in the District of Columbia, which was repealed by Congress and Obama in 2009; and a cutoff of U.S. funding to the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

On the House floor, pro-abortion lawmakers could have forced separate votes on any of those provisions, but they failed to do so—apparently convinced that they would lose such votes, and preferring to rely on the Senate and President Obama.

Instead, the battle lines formed on an amendment strongly supported by NRLC, filed by Congressman Mike Pence (R-In.), to deny all forms of federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates.

When Pence filed the amendment on February 14, it touched off an intense lobbying battle, with large volumes of phone calls flooding into House offices from supporters on both sides. When the House took up the amendment on the evening of February 17, it was the subject of an intense floor debate that lasted for nearly three hours.

The next day, February 18, the House passed the Pence Amendment by a vote of 240 to 185 (see roll call, page **).

After that, the House passed H.R. 1 itself, including all of the pro-life provisions, and sent it to the Senate. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nv.) indicated that the package was unacceptable to Senate Democrats, and the White House made it clear that the President would veto the measure if it reached his desk. At NRL News deadline on February 23, it was unclear how the Democratic leadership would proceed. The law that currently provides spending authority for federal agencies is a temporary measure that expires on March 4.

If the Senate rejects the House-passed bill or passes a different measure, any differences—which are likely to include the pro-life issues—will become subjects for negotiations between the two houses, and with the White House.

Democrats currently control the Senate by a margin of 53–47. Of the 53 Democratic seats (which includes two independents who caucus with the Democrats), 23 will be on next year’s general election ballot, along with 10 seats currently held by Republicans.

Pence Amendment Debate

PPFA has a total annual budget of about $1.1 billion, of which about one-third comes from various levels of government.

In a February 14 letter to House members urging support for the Pence Amendment, NRLC said, “PPFA is the nation’s largest abortion provider, reporting 324,008 abortions in 2008. It appears that abortion accounts for roughly one-third of the aggregate income generated by PPFA-affiliated clinics. According to press reports, PPFA has recently mandated that all of its regional affiliates must provide abortions by the end of 2013. Recent media reports regarding abuses associated with PPFA-affiliated clinics in multiple states provide an additional justification for the amendment.”

The “media reports” grew out of video recordings produced by independent undercover journalists, led by Lila Rose, who visited various Planned Parenthood clinics posing as adults engaged in child prostitution. The recordings were subsequently released through www.liveaction.org, and the ensuing controversy has engendered substantial news coverage, including stories in mainstream outlets such as the New York Times and CBS News.

Following the House vote approving the Pence Amendment, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said, “This landmark vote demonstrates that most House members now recognize Planned Parenthood is a hyper-political, under-regulated, out-of-control mega-marketer of abortion as a method of birth control. Now senators, too, will go on record on whether to push the snout of this bloated abortion-marketing chain out of the U.S. Treasury feeding trough.”

(The NRLC letter and related documentation are posted on the NRLC website at http://nrlc.org///AHC/index.html)

PPFA President Cecile Richards said, “Today, the Republican House leadership pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives an extreme and dangerous piece of legislation targeting Planned Parenthood, one of America’s largest and most trusted health care providers … It now falls to Senators from both parties to join together to reject this extreme approach, restore common sense, and guarantee that Planned Parenthood and the millions of Americans who count on us for health care are protected.”

Pro-abortion Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Il.), who organized a letter attacking the Pence legislation that was signed by 100 House members, told Politico, “[Pence] is going after Planned Parenthood for the same reason that we’re defending it: its importance. Planned Parenthood has the brand for these kinds of clinics.”

Pro-Life Bills Advance

In addition to the abortion-related provisions now incorporated into H.R. 1, other important pro-life measures are advancing in the House.

On January 19, the House voted 245-189 to pass a bill (H.R. 2), endorsed by NRLC, that would completely repeal the massive health care restructuring bill, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (more popularly known as “Obamacare”). However, on February 2, a similar measure failed in the Senate, 47-51. (See the related story that begins on page **, and the roll call votes on pages ****** of this issue.)

On February 9, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a public hearing on the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), sponsored by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), a bill that would correct all of the abortion-expanding provisions within the Obamacare law.

The hearing, chaired by Rep. Pitts, featured testimony in support of the bill by NRLC’s Douglas Johnson and Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. Testimony in opposition to the bill was presented by Sara Rosenbaum, a former health aide to President Clinton who is now chairwoman of the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health. Prof. Rosenbaum sits on the board of The Guttmacher Institute, originally the “research affiliate” of PPFA.

(A video recording of the hearing is posted on the committee website athttp://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=8180.

Mr. Johnson’s written testimony is posted on the NRLC website athttp://nrlc.org///AHC/ProtectLifeActDouglasJohnsonTestimony.pdf)

Pitts said that the bill was necessary “to return to the historical federal policy of the Hyde Amendment,” referring to the law, renewed annually, that prevents federal funding of abortion in several major federal health programs, including Medicaid, but which does not apply to most programs created by the 2010 health care legislation.

NRLC’s Johnson agreed that the bill would apply the principles of the Hyde Amendment to the new programs created by the Obamacare law.

There are, by conservative estimate, more than one million Americans who were born alive and are with us today, who would have been aborted if the Hyde Amendment had not been in place,” Johnson noted. “The Guttmacher Institute has termed this a ‘tragic result,’ but NRLC regards it a major pro-life success story. The Hyde Amendment is the most successful domestic ‘abortion reduction’ policy ever enacted by Congress.”

Rosenbaum testified, “I would say this bill would bring health reform into line with what originally was Stupak-Pitts,” referring to the “Stupak-Pitts Amendment” that NRLC and other pro-life groups pushed during congressional consideration of health care legislation in 2009–2010. The House initially approved the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, 240–194, in late 2009, but it was excluded from the final bill because of opposition from Senate Democrats and President Obama.

Rosenbaum argued that the effect would be to discourage insurers from providing abortion coverage even in health plans that receive no federal funds.

The Protect Life Act also contains language to strengthen legal safeguards to protect health care workers from being penalized for refusal to participate in providing abortions.

On February 15, the full Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mi.), rejected an array of weakening amendments offered by committee Democrats, and then approved H.R. 358 by a vote of 33-19. The 31 Republicans on the committee—joined by a single Democrat, Rep. Mike Ross (Ar.)—voted together against weakening amendments. On final passage, a second Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), joined Ross in support of the bill . (See “House Energy and Commerce Committee Approves Protect Life Act,” this page.)

Smith Bill Advancing

Also advancing is a bill that would enact a broader array of safeguards against federal funding of abortion—the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-Il.), who co-chair the House Pro-Life Caucus.

H.R. 3 received a public hearing on February 8 before the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by pro-life Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.). Testimony in support of the bill was presented by Richard Doerflinger, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cathy Ruse, an attorney representing the Family Research Council. Opposition testimony was presented by Prof. Rosenbaum. (Written testimony from the witnesses, and a video recording, are posted at the Judiciary Committee website at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/hear_02082011.html)

At NRL News deadline, the full House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to consider amendments to H.R. 3 on March 2. The bill must also receive approval from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee before it will be ripe for action by the full House.

Pro-abortion groups have launched a series of public attacks on both bills, based in large part on imaginative misinterpretations of various provisions.

TAKE ACTION!

For up-to-date information on pro-life issues in Congress, including always-current lists of co-sponsors of pro-life bills, and NRLC scorecards of key roll call votes in Congress, make frequent visits to the NRLC Legislative Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/

Refer to the roll call that appears on pages ***** of this issue to determine how your representative voted on the Pence Amendment on February 18. Then, employing the easy-to-use tools on the Legislative Action Center, send your representative an e-mail or letter to express your opinion regarding his or her vote. Also, please use the tools to send an e-mail or to telephone your two U.S. senators to urge them to support the Pence Amendment and other pro-life measures on upcoming votes in the U.S. Senate.

SIDEBAR:

House Energy and Commerce Committee Approves Protect Life Act

On February 15, 2011, the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved, 33-19, the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), after first rejecting a series of weakening amendments offered by opponents of the bill. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), would repeal or correct the abortion-expanding components of the health care law signed by President Obama in March 2010, and increase safeguards for pro-life health care providers.

Voting in favor of approving H.R. 358 were Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mi.) and Republicans Mike Burgess (Tx.), Joe Barton (Tx.), Charles Bass (NH), Brian Bilbray (Ca.), Marsha Blackburn (Tn.), Mary Bono Mack (Ca.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Cory Gardner (Co.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), Brett Guthrie (Ky.), Gregg Harper (Ms.), Adam Kinzinger (Il.), Leonard Lance (NJ), Bob Latta (Ohio), David McKinley (WV), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wa.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Sue Myrick (NC), Pete Olson (Tx.), Joseph Pitts (Pa.), Mike Pompeo (Ks.), Mike Rogers (Mi.), Steve Scalise (La.), John Shimkus (Il.), Cliff Stearns (Fl.), John Sullivan (Ok.), Lee Terry (Ne.), Greg Walden (Or.), and Ed Whitfield (Ky.), and Democrats Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike Ross (Ar.). (Note: Ross voted against all weakening amendments to the bill, but Matheson voted for one weakening amendment, before the vote on final passage.)

Voting against approving H.R. 358 were Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (Ca.) and fellow Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wi.), John Barrow (Ga.), G.K. Butterfield (NC), Lois Capps (Ca.), Diana DeGette (Co.), Mike Doyle (Pa.), Eliot Engel (NY), Anna Eshoo (Ca.), Gene Green (Tx.), Jane Harman (Ca.), Jay Inslee (Wa.), Edward Markey (Ma.), Doris Matsui (Ca.), Frank Pallone (NJ), Bobby Rush (Il.), Jan Schakowsky (Il.), Edolphus Towns (NY), and Anthony Weiner (NY).

Democrats John Dingell (Mi.) and Charles Gonzalez (Tx.) were absent for the final vote, but both have made clear their opposition to the bill.