Pro-life policies under attack at federal level

WASHINGTON (BP) – Abortion-rights advocates are pressing for the rollback of pro-life policies through all three branches of the federal government.

Supporters of abortion rights succeeded in the executive branch Monday (Oct. 4), when the Biden administration announced the repeal of a Trump-era rule that prohibited family planning funds for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortions.

The effort to rescind federal or state pro-life measures also includes:

  • A Democratic-led campaign, especially in the House of Representatives, to exclude from a massive budget reconciliation bill the long-standing Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions.
  • Committee hearings in both the Senate and House that attacked the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow a Texas ban on abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected to go onto effect Sept. 1.
  • A return by an abortion provider to the high court in an effort to persuade the justices to intervene before a federal appeals court rules on the Texas heartbeat law.

“Some proponents of abortion once characterized it as ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ but now the U.S. House of Representatives, along with the Biden administration, are advocating for abortion on demand and, disturbingly, the use of federal funds to pay for it,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “It should grieve our consciences to see such radical steps being made to expand abortion access across our nation.”

President Biden had instructed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January to consider immediately whether to restore Title X eligibility for abortion providers. HHS issued a proposed rule in April to do just that and finalized it Monday after more than 180,000 public comments were received.

The new rule rescinded the Trump administration’s 2019 Protect Life Rule, which banned the use of Title X money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” The Protect Life Rule required “clear financial and physical separation” between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning.

“Taxpayer funds should not be used to subsidize an industry that preys on women and their unborn children,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, in a written statement. “Supplementing the abortion industry through taxpayer funds is offensive to tens of millions of Americans.”

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) applauded the HHS action, which will benefit its affiliates.

“Given the attacks on abortion in Texas and across the country, it’s more important than ever that patients can access their choice of birth control and other health care through Title X – and that it is easily available,” PPFA President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a written release.

Nearly all Democrats in Congress are promoting a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill without the Hyde Amendment, which reached its 45th anniversary since enactment Sept. 30. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations have urged members of Congress to restore to the legislation Hyde and other measures that prohibit abortion funding.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN Oct. 3 she will not support the reconciliation bill if it includes Hyde.

In the evenly divided Senate, however, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has given pro-lifers hope by saying he will not support the measure if Hyde is absent. The reconciliation bill will require only a majority, rather than the typical 60 votes, for passage.

“Hyde’s going to be on,” Manchin told National Review Sept. 29. “It has to be. It has to be. That’s deal on arrival if that’s gone.”

Sobolik expressed her gratitude for Manchin and “others who are willing to protect the longstanding and life-saving Hyde Amendment. We must continue to oppose pro-abortion regulations or legislation and work towards a day when abortion is unnecessary and unthinkable, and every preborn baby is protected.”

The ERLC was among 60 national and state groups whose leaders signed onto a Sept. 7 letter that asked the Senate and House to make sure the reconciliation bill does not support taxpayer funds for abortion.

In June, messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting passed a resolution that denounced any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment and urged the retention of all pro-life “riders,” which must be approved each year in spending bills.

It is estimated Hyde has saved the lives of about 2½ million unborn children. The amendment has exceptions for a threat to the mother’s life, as well as rape and incest.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee criticized the Supreme Court’s action on the Texas heartbeat ban in hearings Sept. 29 and 30, respectively.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., House Oversight and Reform Committee chair, said in her panel’s hearing, according to a written statement, that states – with the Supreme Court’s assistance – “are bulldozing right through [constitutional rights]. We must take bold action to protect and expand abortion care rights and access.”

The Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block the Texas law in a Sept. 1 order. The justices in the majority said their action “is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law.”

The law is unusual in that it bars any government official from enforcing the ban but authorizes a private citizen to bring a civil lawsuit against someone who performs an abortion prohibited by the measure or assists in the performance of such a procedure. Under the law, a court is to award at least $10,000 to a successful plaintiff.

Whole Woman’s Health requested Sept. 23 that the high court hear oral arguments in December on its challenge to Texas’ atypical approach to enforcing the heartbeat ban. The abortion provider urged the justices to rule before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issues a decision, partly because the law is unconstitutional.

In another case, the Supreme Court has agreed to rule in this term, which began Monday, on a Mississippi law that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child whose gestational age is more than 15 weeks. The justices will hear oral arguments in the case Dec. 1.

The ERLC and other pro-life organizations, as well as the state of Mississippi, have urged the high court to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which prohibit states from banning abortions before an unborn child is viable.

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