Following several executive actions taken by President Joe Biden to revoke the Mexico City Policy and initiate a restoration of Title X funding to Planned Parenthood, 48 Republican senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. warning him they will vote against any change to current federal law that weakens or eliminates existing pro-life protections.
Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., the leader of the Senate’s Pro-Life Caucus, issued a press release announcing the reasons for the letter.
“We have a message for Democratic Leader Schumer: we will vote to block any radical, pro-abortion agenda,” Daines said. “That includes any bill that undermines the Hyde Amendment and other longstanding pro-life protections. I’m glad to have 47 of my pro-life Senate colleagues join me in this fight. We’re in the fight for life together.”
The Hyde Amendment, of course, is a provision added to federal legislation for decades that prohibits taxpayer funds from going to pay for abortion.
“The Hyde Amendment is the law of the land, as has been so since 1976,” the letter states. “The Hyde Amendment has enjoyed decades of bipartisan support, including from then-Senator Joe Biden, and has been signed into law by Democrat and Republican Presidents alike. We are deeply opposed to efforts to allow taxpayer funding of abortion on demand and eliminate this more than four-decade-old consensus. Instead, we urge you to allow the Senate to continue its long tradition of bipartisan cooperation in enacting annual appropriations, as well as other health-related spending, with longstanding pro-life protections intact.”
The letter points out that according to recent polls, 60% of Americans oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, including 30% who identify as “pro-choice.” It reminds Schumer that the Hyde Amendment saves lives – an estimated 60,000 per year.
There are many areas of policy under federal control that benefit from existing pro-life laws. The letter explains:
“In addition to preserving the Hyde Amendment’s inclusion in the annual Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Act, it is equally important that the Senate maintain all other longstanding pro-life protections in Federal law. These include, but are not limited to, prohibitions on funding for abortion and abortion coverage for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as foreign aid due to the Helms Amendment. Other longstanding pro-life provisions prevent the District of Columbia from funding elective abortions, prohibit the destruction of human embryos in federally funded research, prohibit funding for abortion-related lobbying overseas, as well as protect the conscience rights of Americans opposed to abortion.”
A similar effort a week ago in the House of Representatives, led by Congressman Jim Banks, R-Ind., the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, put 200 Representatives on record as opposing any weakening of the Hyde Amendment or other existing pro-life laws.
The number of senators signing the Schumer letter is important because, at the moment, legislation still needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate, a procedural rule known as the “cloture” or “filibuster” rule. The rule, in effect since 1917, promotes compromise and a thorough debate.
The much larger House of Representatives does not have a similar rule. Legislation there only needs a majority vote.
The issue of the filibuster rule has been in the news since last year’s election campaign. As relations between Senate Democrats and Republicans deteriorated over the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Schumer was asked whether the Senate, under his potential leadership, would eliminate the filibuster rule, to which he famously, if ambiguously, replied, “Nothing is off the table.”
The Schumer letter closes with a statement of commitment from the 48 Republican signatories. “We are united in our resolve to guard against any changes to Federal law that would unsettle nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, or otherwise threaten the lives of unborn children. Accordingly, we are committed to vote against the advancement of any legislation that would eliminate or weaken the Hyde Amendment or any other current-law pro-life protections, or otherwise undermine existing Federal pro-life policy.”
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