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Progress And Controversy: Abortion In The 114th Congress

The 114th congress, with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, offers a renewed chance to successfully advance laws protecting women and the unborn.  Yet, last Thursday, January 22, pro-life House Republicans were outraged when Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) unexpectedly backed down and pulled their support for “The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, when medical evidence has proven that the child can feel pain.  A vote on the ban was scheduled to take place during the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  To the disappointment of many, Republicans were forced to temporarily delay the vote.  In its stead, the House of Representatives passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” by a bipartisan vote of 242-179.  This legislation would completely ban federal funding for abortion, including massive abortion funding authorized under Obamacare.

Despite the setbacks and challenges to passing these two major pieces of pro-life legislation, the high attendance of millennials and others at the March for Life demonstrates what has been revealed by recent studies and polling data: both bills have the overwhelming support of the American people.

A Marist poll (commissioned by The Knights of Columbus) released earlier this month shows:

84% of Americans favor banning abortions after 3 months pregnancy (12 weeks), excepting only cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother; Sixty-nine percent of those supporting such a ban identify themselves as “pro-choice;”
84% of Americans believe that laws can protect both the well-being of the mother and the life of the unborn;
68% of Americans, regardless of gender, oppose government funding for abortion;
60% regard abortion to be morally wrong; and
59% believe that abortion does more harm than good to women.

Three polls from last year had similar results.

A 2014 CNN poll found that 56% of Americans oppose government funding for abortion, and that 58% think abortion should always be illegal or should be legal only in a few circumstances.  Only 13% of those polled by CNN thought abortion should always be legal.

A 2014 Gallup poll showed 71% of participants thought that abortion should never be legal or should be legal in only certain circumstances, and only 28% thought that abortions should always be legal.

A 2014 Quinnipiac poll (question 49) found 60% of Americans supported banning abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape and incest that have been reported to authorities.

Likewise, a 2013 national poll by the Polling Company found that, after being informed that an unborn child can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy, 64% supported banning abortion after 20 weeks, with an exception to save the life of the mother.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Last year, this legislation passed in the House by a 227-188 vote, with Ellmers and Walorski voting in support of the bill.  Both politicians promised their strongly pro-life constituencies during election season that they would vote again for the bill if they were re-elected to office.  But, hours before the actual vote, they cited problems in the rape provision that made them change their minds. The bill currently provides a  broad exemption to the 20-week abortion ban in the case of rape.  The rape may be reported even within minutes prior to the abortion (These last two sentences have been edited from original posting).

Pro-life Republicans have reiterated their unwavering support for the bill, and have promised to re-work its language to achieve unified support and put it to a vote.  Once the language has been finessed, the focus can return to where it belongs: banning late-term abortions and infanticide.

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

Introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (R-IL), this law bans all federal funding for abortion – including funding under Obamacare.

Prior to Obamacare, federal funding for abortion was prohibited under the Hyde Amendment, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.  Unfortunately, the Hyde Amendment is not codified law.  It must be renewed annually—as an appropriations bill rider.  Unless it is permanently codified, any pro-abortion Congress could simply refuse to renew it and the protections it affords would be lost.  The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” permanently codifies the Hyde Amendment.

Obamacare, however, bypasses the Hyde Amendment.  The funding prohibited by the Hyde Amendment applies only to monies secured through Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations; Obamacare is not funded in this manner.  Obamacare authorizes federally-subsidized Qualified Health Plans (QHP’s) and other multi-state qualified health plans to use federal funds from other appropriations for abortions.  In addition, the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare opens yet another door to increase funding for abortion.

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” not only codifies the long-established Hyde Amendment, but encompasses funding under Obamacare as well.  It provides a comprehensive prohibition that applies to all government agencies.  It also requires that health plans offered under Obamacare fully disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion, so that consumers can choose a health plan that corresponds with their values.

In conclusion, although the House failed to vote on the highly-anticipated 20-week abortion ban, new studies that show strong public support for abortion restrictions serve as a source of encouragement for pro-life politicians to continue supporting legislation that protects the unborn and reflects the values of the American people.