January 10, 2014
Calls permanent ban on abortion funding “long overdue”
Americans agree federal government should not use funding power to support, promote abortion
Abortion problems in Affordable Care Act show need for legislation
WASHINGTON – In congressional testimony, an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced the bishops’ support for H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The bipartisan bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to prevent every federal program from funding abortion and abortion coverage on a permanent basis. A hearing was held on the legislation January 9, by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
“H.R. 7 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support or promote abortion,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB Secretariat of ProLife Activities. “This principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment and numerous other provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs. It has consistently had the support of the American people. Women oppose federally funded or federally mandated abortion coverage as strongly as men or more so; low-income Americans oppose it more strongly than the affluent.”
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1980 decision upholding the Hyde amendment, Doerflinger observed: “Even courts insisting on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion have said this alleged right ‘implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds’.”
Doerflinger said that “Congress’s policy has been consistent for decades,” but “its implementation in practice has been piecemeal, confusing and sometimes sadly inadequate.” This is especially true of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, he said, citing “recent developments” that “underscore a need to correct the abortion funding problems” in the Act.
The full text of Doerflinger’s written testimony can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/HR-7-No-Taxpayer-Funding-for-Abortion-Testimony-1-9-2014.pdf.
Following is the text he prepared for oral delivery at the hearing:
Thank you for this opportunity to voice our support for H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.
H.R. 7 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support or promote abortion. This principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment and numerous other provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs. It has consistently had the support of the American people. Women oppose federally funded or federally mandated abortion coverage as strongly as men or more so; low-income Americans oppose it more strongly than the affluent.
Even courts insisting on a constitutional “right” to abortion have said this alleged right “implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.” In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court said the Hyde amendment is an exercise of “the legitimate congressional interest in protecting potential life,” adding: “Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.” The Court’s only mistake here was its use of the phrase “potential life,” since unborn children are actually alive until they are made actually dead by abortion. More recently the court has said simply that the government “may express profound respect for the life of the unborn” by regulating abortion.
While Congress’s policy has been consistent for decades, its implementation in practice has been piecemeal, confusing and sometimes sadly inadequate. Gaps or loopholes have been discovered in this patchwork of provisions over the years, highlighting the need for a permanent and consistent policy across the federal government. In 2010 Congress passed major health care reform legislation with at least four different policies on abortion funding, ranging from a ban on such funding in one section of the bill to a potential mandate for such funding in another. These problems have arisen partly because various sections of the Affordable Care Act not only authorize but appropriate their own funds, thus bypassing the Hyde amendment and similar longstanding appropriations provisions.
Recent developments underscore a need to correct the abortion funding problems in the Affordable Care Act. In 2010 the Act was used to approve direct federal funding of elective abortion coverage under the state “high risk pool” program, until this was uncovered by pro-life groups. As state health exchanges have begun to operate, Americans are finding it difficult to find a plan without abortion coverage or even to get clear answers as to which plans those are – and they are discovering that despite public assurances to the contrary, they may be forced by the government to subsidize other people’s abortions as a condition for obtaining the health care their families need. And members and staff of Congress, previously assured that they would be free to choose from a full range of federally subsidized health plans without having to pay for abortions, are finding that they have been deprived of that freedom, contrary to longstanding federal law.
If a bill like H.R. 7 had been enacted before the health care reform debate began, that debate would not have been about abortion funding. A major obstacle to support by Catholics and other pro-life Americans would have been removed, and the final legislation would not have been so badly compromised by provisions that place unborn human lives at grave risk.
H.R. 7 would prevent problems and confusions on abortion funding in future legislation. Federal health bills could be debated in terms of their ability to promote the goal of universal health care, instead of being mired in debates about one lethal procedure that most Americans know is not truly “health care” at all.
To answer some questions raised about H.R. 7:
First, it does not eliminate private coverage for abortion, but specifically allows such coverage when purchased without federal subsidy.
Second, it does not create an unprecedented policy of denying “tax benefits” to abortion, but follows the Affordable Care Act in this regard. The ACA itself describes the provision of tax credits for abortion as a use of “federal funds.”
My prepared text provides additional details on these points and I would be happy to answer questions about them.
Keywords: Richard Doerflinger, Chris Smith, abortion, Hyde Amendment, Affordable Care Act, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
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Sister Mary Ann Walsh