The U.S. House of Representatives took the first step Jan. 24 toward a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funds for abortions.
The House voted 238-183 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (H.R. 7). If it becomes law, the proposal would standardize prohibitions that now exist in various U.S. programs, in addition to blocking federal money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health care law and guaranteeing full disclosure of abortion funding by health insurance plans that are part of the controversial arrangement.
The Hyde Amendment – which bars Medicaid funding of abortion and became the general label for such bans on health programs – has saved the lives of more than 2 million unborn babies, the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated on the law’s 40th anniversary in September.
The new legislation must still gain approval in the Senate, which failed to act on the ban in the last session after the House passed it. New President Donald Trump has pledged his support for a permanent prohibition on federal abortion funding.
Supporters of such a ban rejoiced at the action, while opponents – such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America – decried it.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed his gratitude to the House and its speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“The Hyde Amendment represents a bipartisan consensus that taxpayers should not have to violate their consciences through subsidized abortion,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Codifying this consensus through the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is the right decision for the unborn, families and communities.
“Along with Baptists and other believers around the country, I urge the Senate to take up their form of this bill and get it to the president’s desk,” he said in written comments for Baptist Press.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a written release, “Over two million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. With today’s vote, we are one step closer to getting the federal government out of the business of paying for abortion once and for all.”
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue slammed the legislation as “anti-choice overreach – mistaking an electoral win for a mandate.”
“This is classic obsessive behavior by Congressional Republicans, who prioritize these draconian measures in a country hungry for genuine economic progress and committed to expanding personal freedom,” she said in a written statement.
Congress approved the Hyde Amendment initially in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country. Legislators, however, have had to pass it and similar bans in other federal health programs each year as part of spending measures. The measure is named after its sponsor, the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois.
Bipartisan support for prohibiting federal funding of abortion has declined dramatically through the years as the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress has fallen. In the latest roll call, no Republicans opposed H.R. 7, while only three Democrats supported it. The sole Democrats to vote for the ban were Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
During the debate that preceded the roll-call vote, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a Southern Baptist, said it is certain someday “we as a society will look back and we will recognize the humanity of these little children of God and the inhumanity of what was being done to them. And we will regret these days. Until then, at least, can’t we get together and say that we shouldn’t force taxpayers to pay for the killing of innocent, little, human beings. I pray that we can open our eyes to that truth.”
A Marist Poll released Jan. 23 reported 61 percent of Americans oppose or strongly oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 40 percent of pro-choice citizens and 41 percent of Democrats. The Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus sponsored the survey.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., is the sponsor of the House bill. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a Southern Baptist, introduced the Senate version of the ban, S. 184, Jan. 20 with 38 cosponsors.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)