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A look ahead at the 116th Congress

by | Jan 17, 2019

Jennifer Popik, J.D. Director Federal Legislation

As a hundred thousand or more people from across the country prepare to travel to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life on January 18th, National Right to Life is gearing up for a busy year working with the U.S. Congress on federal legislation. Unlike the 115th Congress, we now face a divided congress. Pro-abortion Democrats control the House, but pro-life Republicans have extended their advantage in the Senate.

U.S. House of Representatives

The House of Representatives, now under the leadership of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) has shown from day one, that expanding abortion, including taxpayer funding of abortion, are top priorities. On the first day of voting in the New Year, all House Democrats, joined by 7 Republicans voted to undue several international pro-life policies in legislation which they added to legislation dealing with the partial governmental shutdown.

The recently-passed Consolidated Appropriations Act funds organizations that actively promote abortion overseas, undoes the Trump administration’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance program, and adds additional funding for the United Nations Population Fund. There was an effort by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tx.) to strip out the pro-abortion language from the spending bill, but the motion was unsuccessful. Fortunately, because this legislation faces a veto threat from President Trump, it is stalled.

Going forward, we can expect a full assault on domestic pro-life protections. We are looking for pro-abortion House legislation to try to start rolling back long-standing pro-life riders as well as pro-life administrative gains. That would include attempts to permit direct taxpayer funding of abortion including eliminating the Hyde Amendment, which has saved over two million lives since 1976.

We expect hearings and possible votes on some version of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) “Medicare for All” whose current versions fund abortion on demand. We also are keeping a keen eye on hearings and potential votes on extreme pro-abortion measures such as the “Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act” (137 co-sponsors in the 115th House) which specifically undoes abortion coverage restriction in state exchanges and any public federal program. Additionally, the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (169 cosponsors in the 115th House) targets virtually all federal and state restriction on abortion.

And while a major overhaul of the abortion-expanding Obama Healthcare Law (Obamacare) is on hold, Congress is likely to consider tackling several items to prop up the law. National Right to Life opposes the authorizing money for Obamacare unless the funds contain true Hyde-like funding restrictions.

Prior to the enactment of Obamacare in 2010, there was a nearly uniform policy that federal programs did not subsidize health plans that included coverage of elective abortion. Over the strong objections of National Right to Life, Congress enacted Obamacare with provisions that sharply deviated from the longstanding Hyde policy. Although denied at the time, it authorized massive federal subsidies to purchase private health plans that cover abortion on demand in all states that failed to pass laws to limit abortion coverage. The position we take on the pending proposals is identical to the position we took on the original Obamacare legislation.

While we have a prolife President and Senate that we will have to count on to block the Democrats pro-abortion agenda, we will continue to be vigilant and highlight the extreme nature of the other side as the House moves ahead over the next two years.

U.S. Senate

No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion

While the details of a potential pro-life vote and the timing are not set in stone, we are urging the Senate to take up the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Pat Roberts (R-KY).

The legislation would codify the principles of the Hyde Amendment on a permanent, government-wide basis, applicable to both longstanding federal health programs and to the new programs created by Obamacare. Under the bill, health plans that cover elective abortions would not qualify for federal subsidies, although such plans could still be sold to those who wish to purchase them with personal funds.

Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

We are also urging the Senate to take up the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in this Congress. This legislation extends general protection to unborn children who are at least 20 weeks beyond fertilization (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy — about the start of the sixth month). This vital legislation is similar to laws enacted in 16 states beginning in 2010, based on National Right to Life model legislation.

There is abundant medical evidence that by this point in development (and probably earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience excruciating pain during typical abortion procedures.

It is now commonplace to read about evidence that, by 20 weeks fetal age and even earlier, an unborn child responds to many forms of stimuli, including music and the mother’s voice. Claims that the same child is nevertheless insensible to the violence done to her body during an abortion should engender strong skepticism.

Abortions at this stage typically are performed using a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless-steel clamping tool. A medical illustration of this common method is posted here: www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/deabortiongraphic/

Just some of the extensive scientific evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks fetal age, is available at here: www.doctorsonfetalpain.com

A common pro-abortion response is that late abortions are “rare.” That is not true. At least 275 facilities offer abortions past 20 weeks fetal age.

The public is in our corner on this matter. In a nationwide poll of 1,623 registered voters, The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 60% would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, while only 33% opposed such legislation. Women voters split 59-35% in support of such a law, while independent voters supported it by 56-36%.

The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act

This vital pro-life legislation would prohibit the performance of dismemberment abortion. The act is based on a model state bill proposed by National Right to Life, which has been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia. More states are expected to consider the legislation in 2019.

This legislation defines “dismemberment abortion” as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off . . .”

The method is commonly used starting at about 14 weeks of pregnancy, extending into the third trimester. A medical illustration of a D&E dismemberment abortion is available here.

An unborn child should not be subjected to the cruel violence of having her arms and legs torn off by brute force, with steel tools that grasp, tear, and crush.

2019 promises to be an eventful year, one where we must remain vigilant!

Categories: Legislation
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