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Federal Legislation Watch Update

Congress is taking a break for the month of August. Upon their return in September, a major piece of legislation containing a provision that would provide federal resources for abortion is expected to receive consideration by the full Senate.

Conversely, two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House of Representatives that would prohibit the use of federal tax dollars for abortions.  While these bills are not likely to receive consideration this year, they are gaining support and momentum for 2011.

These items are addressed in turn below.

I. The Burris Amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill

Under U.S. Code Title 10 USC Sec 1093(b), abortions may not be performed by Department of Defense medical personnel or in Department of Defense medical facilities except when the life of the mother is at risk, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.[1]

During the Senate Armed Services Committee mark-up on May 27, 2010, Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) offered an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill to strike Section 1093(b) of the US Code.  It passed by a 15-12 vote (Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the only Democrat to vote against the amendment).  The effect of the Burris amendment would be world-wide, turning our military medical facilities, both domestic and overseas, into abortion clinics.

Further, American taxpayers will be footing the bill by paying for these military facilities, additional equipment, and the use of needed military personnel to perform abortions.

Moreover, history tells us that if the Burris amendment becomes law, it is not just taxpayer-funded facilities that will be used to support abortion-on-demand.  More money may be used to search for, hire, and transport new personnel to perform those abortions.  From 1993 to 1996, when President Clinton allowed abortions in military facilities, the administration had to seek out civilians to perform the abortions – all military physicians refused to perform or assist in elective abortions.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-MI), stated on the Senate Floor on August 5, 2010 that the full Senate should consider the Defense Authorization bill quickly after returning in September, and asked for an agreement to do so.  Senator McCain (R-AZ) objected, arguing that the legislation was being used to “move[] forward with a social agenda.”  He noted that if the bill becomes law, “abortion [] is going to be performed in military hospitals for the first time in a long time.”

In spite of Senator McCain’s objection, Senator Levin stated “obviously, we are going to try to get this bill up in September.”

It is expected that at least one amendment will be offered on the Senate Floor to strike the Burris Amendment.  AUL will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation.

II. H.R. 5939:  “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”

On July 29, 2010, Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced H.R. 5939, “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”  There are currently 162 cosponsors of this bill.

H.R. 5939 would establish a permanent government-wide prohibition on federal funding for abortions and abortion coverage. The bill would also codify conscience protections for health care providers who do not want to participate in abortions.

For decades, restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortions have been enacted separately and have been contained in appropriations riders (like the Hyde Amendment, which must be renewed annually and only applies to certain appropriations), regulations (which can be overturned by new administrations), and executive orders (which exist at the will of a president).  H.R. 5939 would eliminate the struggle that prolife Congressmen face every year to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortions, by enshrining this principle in federal statutory law.

III. H.R. 5111:  “The Protect Life Act”

On April 22, 2010, Congressmen Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) introduced H.R. 5111, “The Protect Life Act.”  The bill currently has 121 cosponsors.

H.R. 5111 would amend the new health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), by prohibiting the use of any funds in the PPACA for abortions or abortion coverage. It would also protect health care providers from discrimination on the basis that they do not want to participate in abortions.  Finally, it would prohibit the federal government from requiring private insurance companies to cover abortion, thereby closing a loophole created by the PPACA.

H.R. 5111 is modeled after the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was included in the House version of health care reform, but was excluded in the Senate and in the final law.  It would correct the mistake that Congress made in enacting health care reform without a comprehensive prohibition on the use of federal tax dollars for abortions.

[1] U.S. Code Title 10 USC Sec 1093

(a) Restriction on Use of Funds – funds available to the Department of Defense may not be used to perform abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.

(b) Restriction on Use of Facilities – No medical treatment facility or other facility of the Department of Defense may be used to perform an abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in a case in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.