Recent Pro-Life Progress in the 114th Congress
Last week, Congress made real progress for Life.
July 14, was a crazy all-over-the-map legislative day. By the end of it, the Freedom of Conscience Act had been passed 254-182, and pro-life initiatives had advanced.
Two important bills, the Labor-HHS and the State Department appropriations, had been reported out of their respective committees, each with significant pro-life content. Though these won’t make it to the floor for some time to come, all three accomplishments are graphic proof that elections have consequences.
On the Freedom of Conscience Act, the yeas were 251 Republicans, and the nays were 181 Democrats. Three Democrats voted for conscience: Henry Cuellar (TX-28, Laredo), Dan Lipinski (IL-3, southwest suburbs of Chicago), and Collin Peterson (MN-7, rural western part of state). There are about three pro-life Democrats left in Congress.
The lone Republican who voted with the Democrats was Richard Hanna (NY-22, Utica). Hanna is retiring, and the Republican nominee for his seat is Claudia Tenney, who was prime sponsor in the New York Assembly of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. If she wins, she will be an improvement, from the perspective of life, over Hanna. But the race is rated a “pure toss-up” by the prestigious Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. So Hanna might be replaced by a pro-death Democrat in November.
Also on Friday, the House Appropriations Committee reported out the Labor, Health and Human Services bill for FY17. The Committee bill includes some new progress for life, and holds the line on some old pro-life provisions.
The bill includes the Hyde Amendment (no federal funds for abortion), the Weldon Amendment (conscience protection for medical workers), and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (no federal funds for embryo-destructive research). The new pro-life policies are exciting: Title X is defunded, some embryos created by IVF are saved from destruction, and conscience protection language is included.
Of course, there were fights every step of the way—and when the bill comes to the floor of the full House, there probably will be more fights to hang on to those provisions as the bill wends its way through the system.
The Left, of course, wants to fund Planned Parenthood every chance it gets, so Nita Lowey (D-NY 17, White Plains) offered an amendment to fund the Title X program at $300 million for FY17. The Lowey amendment failed along party lines, 20-28.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL 23, Hollywood) tried to remove Conscience Rights language from the bill. Her amendment failed 19-31, with all Republicans and a lone Democrat (Cuellar) voting against it.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) offered a pro-life amendment to prevent the destruction of human embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) through the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs Health Administration. This amendment, too, was passed by a party-line vote: 29-21 (there were two Republican defectors on that one).
Party-line votes kept some pro-life provisions in another bill. Two days earlier, the House Appropriations Committee sent to the full House the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for FY17. This includes some new pro-life initiatives (reinstating the Mexico City Policy and defunding UNFPA).
If the majority on the committee had been different, it would have been a setback for life. The bill would have included funding for UNFPA and at least $585 million for international “family planning.” Rep Tim Ryan (D-OH) offered an amendment to do just that. His amendment failed 20-19…along party lines.
Then Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered a second amendment to the same effect. That one failed 20—28 . . . along party lines. One Republican (Charles Dent (PA-15, Allentown) defected to the pro-abort side.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment to strike the Mexico City Policy language. She wanted to allow federal funds to groups overseas that advocate for and perform abortions. The Lowey Amendment was defeated on—guess what, a party-line vote.
It’s no wonder the Democrats are so angry. With a pro-life majority in office, they keep losing.
While pro-lifers should thank their representatives who won the victory, let us not stop to congratulate ourselves.
Congress is in recess now for the party nominating conventions, and the House won’t sit again until September.
At that point, Members of Congress will be working against the clock to get the necessary budget-related work done before recessing again in order to do serious campaigning.
So we’ll have to wait to see how these stories end. It could be as late as December.
And—if the election results go the wrong way in November, even the “familiar” pro-life provisions of this and all legislation may be at risk in the 115th Congress, which will begin in January, 2017.