House passes bill making Hyde Amendment permanent

WASHINGTON – The House has approved a bill that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, limit tax deductions for the cost of an abortion and block other potential use of federal funds for any clinic or doctor who offers abortions.

The legislation is unlikely to reach a Senate vote and would likely be vetoed by President Barack Obama if it should pass. But supporters of the bill called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to bring the bill to the floor.

In a 251-175 vote May 4, the House approved H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make permanent the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, prohibiting the use of federal funds for any abortion. The amendment currently must be renewed each year.

H.R. 3 also would prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for any health insurance plan that includes abortion, as well as bar abortion from being offered at any federal or District of Columbia health care facility or by any individual employed by the federal government or the District of Columbia.

The only exceptions in the legislation would be if the pregnancy results from rape or incest or if the woman suffers from a life-threatening condition related to the pregnancy.

“By passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the House has taken a decisive step toward protecting human life, reflecting the will of the American people,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

In testimony to a House subcommittee about the bill in February, Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the secretariat, called H.R. 3 “a well-crafted and reasonable measure to maintain long-standing and widely supported policies against active government promotion of abortion.”

In his testimony, Doerflinger cited past surveys showing that the Hyde Amendment – attached to annual Department of Health and Human Services appropriations bills since 1976 – has “consistently had the support of the American people,” with many wrongly assuming that “it is already fully implemented at all levels of our federal government.”

“The fact is that Congress’ policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, but the implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal, confusing and sometimes sadly inadequate,” he said.

A statement from the White House said the administration strongly opposes H.R. 3 because it “intrudes on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increases the tax burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restricts the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restricts the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule.”

The statement said long-standing federal policy prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered and the prohibition is a part of Affordable Care Act, the national health care program passed last year.

“H.R. 3 goes well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers’ private health care choices,” the statement said.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.