The House Judiciary Committee voted 23-14 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3). The vote was along party lines with one exception: Democrat Pedro Pierluisi, the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, joined Republicans in the majority. (Pierluisi and other delegates representing U.S. territories are able to vote in committee but not in the full House.)
The legislation -- which was also referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ways and Means Committee for consideration -- would institute a permanent ban on federal funds and subsidies for abortion. It would serve to standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many of which have to be approved each year, and make certain the prohibition extends to all agencies.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., also would institute conscience clause protections for pro-life, health-care providers. With 211 cosponsors, the proposal already is only seven votes short of a House majority.
"President Obama has said he wants abortion to be rare. Well, Mr. Obama, here is a bill for you," Smith said in a written statement. "tudies show that when abortion is not funded, abortions in the covered population are reduced by roughly 25 percent."
Citing public opinion polls that show a strong majority of Americans oppose government-funded abortion, Smith said, "There is nothing whatsoever benign or caring or generous or just or compassionate or nurturing about abortion.... Americans do not want to pay for the killing of unborn children and the wounding of their mothers."
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land joined 12 other pro-life leaders in a March 3 letter urging the Judiciary Committee to support the bill. They focused much of their attention on the measure's provision to protect pro-life health-care workers from discrimination.
"The principle that nobody should be forced to participate in an abortion is common-sense, but attacks on conscience are commonplace," the letter from the pro-life advocates said. "The abortion industry has made it clear that its agenda includes targeting the constitutional rights of those who disagree with them by seeking to compel healthcare professionals, Catholic hospitals, and other unwilling groups and individuals to participate in abortions regardless of their religious, moral, or ethical convictions against the practice."
Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Other signers included Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action; David Stevens, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Christian Medical Association; Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America; Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action, and Jan Hemstad, president of the Catholic Medical Association.
The Republican-controlled House already has approved the following bills promoted by pro-lifers since it convened in January:
-- A repeal of the 2010 health-care reform law, though it was defeated by the Senate.
-- The Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, which would amend last year's health-care law to bar federal money from paying for abortion or abortion coverage.
-- A continuing budget resolution that includes several abortion-funding bans, in particular a prohibition on all federal money for Planned Parenthood, the country's leading abortion provider.
Opponents of the Smith bill introduced several amendments during the Judiciary Committee's consideration, but all were rejected.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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