Senate Dems thwart GOP bid to block Planned Parenthood 'slush fund' in stimulus
Attempt to apply Hyde Amendment to American Rescue Plan Act fails
By Valerie Richardson
Among the beneficiaries of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed Saturday was Planned Parenthood, despite the best efforts of Senate Republicans and pro-life groups.
Senate Democrats beat back efforts to apply the Hyde Amendment to the legislation, meaning that the federal funding, notably $50 million allotted for grants and contracts under the Public Health Service Act, may be used to cover abortions in a break with last year’s novel coronavirus spending.
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List said that the American Rescue Plan Act “allows taxpayer funding for abortion contrary to the decades-old Hyde Amendment that has applied to every other COVID-19 relief package,” creating a “slush fund for Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.”
“We have had five bipartisan COVID relief packages and not one of them included any provisions that would undermine pro-life protections,” said Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, after the vote. “Preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortions is something a majority of Americans agree with. I’m very disappointed to see Senate Democrats use ‘COVID relief’ to get away with their pro-abortion agenda.”
An amendment proposed by Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, to prohibit the funding from being used to cover abortion failed on a 52-47 vote. A three-fifths majority was needed to pass the amendment.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, thanked “the reproductive health care champions in the Senate who defeated a cynical, harmful abortion coverage restriction amendment to the COVID relief bill.”
“Right now, we need to be providing more care, not less,” she tweeted after the Saturday vote.
The stimulus bill goes back to the House for approval, a vote expected for Tuesday, before heading to President Biden’s desk.
The Hyde Amendment, which dates back to 1976, prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund most abortions
The Lankford amendment was one of several pro-life measures that failed during the overnight “vote-a-rama,” prompting frustration from Senate Republicans.
“The Democrats’ vote to dismiss the Hyde Amendment to allow taxpayer-funded abortions is more evidence of how off the rails this so-called #CovidReliefBill really is,” tweeted Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Republican.
SBA List Marjorie Dannenfelser cited a Marist College/Knights of Columbus poll released in January that found 58% of U.S. adults surveyed, including 65% of independent voters and 31% of Democrats, oppose taxpayer funding for abortions.
“Shame on Senate Democrats who exploited COVID-19 relief to expand taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, breaking with more than four decades of bipartisan consensus,” said Ms. Dannenfelser.
At the same time, she thanked the three Senate Democrats—Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—who voted in favor of the amendment to ban federal relief dollars from covering abortion.
They ultimately supported the final bill, which passed 50-49 on a party-line vote.
“We thank Senators Daines and Lankford for their heroic efforts to fix this bill, as well as the three Senate Democrats who stood up to extremists in their party and voted with all their Republican colleagues in favor of Hyde protections, showing that life is not a partisan issue,” said Ms. Dannenfelser.
Planned Parenthood Action said that the relief bill was needed to “continue addressing the health care and economic crises caused by the pandemic—including support for sexual and reproductive health care.”
Mr. Biden has made it a priority to reverse the Trump administration’s abortion policies. He has already rescinded the Mexico City Policy preventing foreign-aid dollars from paying for overseas abortions while moving to lift a ban on health-care providers funded under Title X from referring clients for abortion.
“Tragically, it was not enough to overcome radical pro-abortion Democrats emboldened under the Biden-Harris administration,” said Ms. Dannenfelser.