Bipartisan Bill to Permanently End Taxpayer-Funded Abortions Introduced in House

CNS News
August 5, 2010
By Adam Cassandra

A bipartisan bill meant to permanently prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions in every federal program has been introduced in the House, with over 150 original cosponsors, including 16 Democrats.
"For decades, a patchwork of short-term policies have prevented abortion funding in many programs authorized by Congress, but it is time for a single, government-wide permanent protection against taxpayer funding for elective abortion," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the Republican co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement released last week.
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a cosponsor of the bill, said the health-care reform legislation that passed Congress this year showed that the current system of preventing taxpayer funded abortions is "dangerously fragile."
"To guarantee that taxpayers are never forced to pay for abortions and the innocent unborn are protected, we must make the longstanding ban on federal funding for abortion permanent and government-wide," Lipinski said.
Currently, prohibitions on taxpayer-funded abortions must be re-approved each year. The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" will make regularly re-approved abortion restrictions -- such as the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment -- permanent and applicable to all federal programs.
The Hyde Amendment, an amendment prohibiting taxpayer funds from going to pay for abortions, is attached yearly to the Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. The Helms Amendment prohibits U.S. foreign aid from going to pay for abortions worldwide.

Abortion is lethal violence against children and exploitation of women," Smith said. "This legislation would establish a comprehensive policy prohibiting public funding for elective abortion in all federal programs."
The bill states: "No funds authorized or appropriated by federal law, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are authorized or appropriated by federal law, shall be expended for any abortion."
The bill further specifies that no taxpayer money can be used for health plans that fund abortions, either directly or indirectly, including the high-risk insurance pools currently funding abortions, as previously reported. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service stated in a July 23 report that neither the abortion restrictions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in March, nor the executive order signed by President Obama to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions, cover the high-risk insurance pools. 

The report also states that: "the Hyde Amendment and other abortion funding restrictions that are included in the annual appropriations measures for various federal agencies would not seem to apply to the funds available" for high-risk insurance pools.

The Smith-Lipinski bill does allow for abortions if the pregnancy is a result of forcible rape or incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered.  However, the bill codifies a conscience clause that was originally authored by two former congressmen -- the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) -- to protect health-care providers who do not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said that the level of support for the bill by representatives who voted for the Affordable Care Act proves that the health-care overhaul does pay for abortions, that President Obama's executive order is insufficient, and that a permanent fix is needed.

"The Smith-Lipinski bill will consolidate and make permanent a string of policies that have attempted to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion despite a pro-abortion agenda being imposed by a Democrat-controlled Congress and America's most pro-abortion president in history," Dannenfelser said in a statement.

Absent from sponsoring the bill are a number of Democrats considered to be pro-life, including the Democratic co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus -- Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

Stupak, who is retiring at the end of his term this year, was hailed as a pro-life hero earlier in the year for his initial resistance of the health-care bill over concerns about taxpayer funded abortions. But pro-life groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List, branded Stupak a traitor to the pro-life movement for supportig the bill after President Obama agreed to sign an executive order restricting abortion funding with taxpayer money.

"Not surprisingly, other 'pro-life' Democrats who voted in favor of the health care bill like Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) have not co-sponsored the Smith-Lipinski bill," Dannenfelser said. "Poll after poll confirms that the pro-abortion votes of these congressmen and women do not represent the views of their constituents."

Stupak's office did not return repeated calls for comment on this story explaining why the congressman did not cosponsor the bill, or if Rep. Stupak supports the intent of the bill.

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