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Anti-Choice Lawmakers Use Federal Budget Bills to Launch All-Out Assault on Reproductive Rights (Updated)

Katelyn Burns

One bill includes provisions that would cut all Title X family planning and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funding from the 2019 budget.

UPDATE, July 21, 1:30 p.m.: The full House Appropriations Committee approved on Wednesday the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill including a provision affirming the Trump administration’s global gag rule. Ranking member Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced an amendment to remove the provision, but it failed to get enough votes to be included in the bill.

A series of House Appropriations Committee bills at various stages of approval include anti-choice provisions seeking to restrict access to reproductive health care and contraception both domestically and across the globe.

Most critically, the House Appropriations subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education released its draft of the agencies’ budgets for fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1. The bill includes provisions that would cut all Title X family planning and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program funding from the 2019 budget. The bill passed through subcommittee markup Friday morning, however, committee Democrats have labeled the anti-choice provisions “riders” and “poison pills” and promised to introduce amendments during full committee markups to drop them from the version of the bill that would be sent to the House floor.

Congress decides how to fund the government through twelve separate appropriations bills from both the House and Senate, which are eventually rolled into a budget bill requiring approval from each chamber of the U.S. Congress. The House and Senate budget differences are then reconciled before forming a single bill which must be approved by each chamber. The House and Senate each have their own appropriations committees, and each of those are divided into 12 subcommittees which work together to create a draft of the bill. From there, the drafts get sent to full committee for markups, when members of the full appropriations committee have a chance to offer amendments and make changes before voting on whether to send the bill for a vote in the full chamber.

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“To add insult to injury, there are an abundance of poison pills in this bill. Yet again, the majority is trying to block funding for the Affordable Care Act. They also want to eliminate and block funding for family planning, teen pregnancy prevention, and abortion coverage,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in a statement regarding the bill. “[W]e should not be playing ideological games with people’s health.”

On Wednesday evening, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, which includes a ban on abortion coverage by multi-state Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance plans as well as a ban on abortion coverage in insurance plans for federal employees. The bill also renews a policy banning the District of Columbia from using its own tax dollars to cover abortion care for Medicaid recipients.

The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill now heads to the full House for debate and a possible vote.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced an amendment during markups yesterday which would have struck section 631 of the financial services appropriations bill, the aforementioned multi-state ACA abortion care coverage ban. “Section 631 is designed to make it more difficult for a woman to purchase the health insurance she wants with the ultimate goal of restricting a woman’s ability to access a safe and legal medical procedure,” said Rep. Lowey in her remarks introducing the amendment in committee. “As we all know, current law already prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortion services,” she said, referring to the Hyde Amendment.

Rep. Lowey went on to explain that the ACA already restricts access to coverage for abortion care and includes a provision that at least one multi-state plan to not provide coverage for such services. “Those provisions [in the ACA] were written by anti-choice legislators [and] are apparently not enough for those who are laser focused on denying safe, legal, and even private health services to women,” she said. Rep. Lowey’s amendment ultimately failed in a committee vote, 21-31.

Later on Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced an amendment to lift a bill rider that restricts how D.C. administers its Medicaid coverage for abortion care. In remarks introducing her amendment, Rep. Lee pointed out what she suggested was GOP hypocrisy on the issue. “No other jurisdiction or state is told how to use its own locally raised revenue, yet this committee is preparing to once again vote to force Congress’ view on the District of Columbia,” she said.

Rep. Lee went on to explain that people who seek an abortion and are denied are more likely to fall into poverty. For all but two years since 1989, Congress also has restricted the District’s ability to use its own locally raised revenue for abortion services. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), chairperson of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee which wrote the initial draft of the bill, noted that Rep. Lee puts forward this amendment every year while voicing his opposition.

“Federal politicians have no place interfering in women’s reproductive health decisions. Policies like these are crafted to deny women the right to make decisions over their own lives, and often drive low-income women and women of color into poverty” said Rep. Lee in a statement to Rewire.News. “I’ll keep fighting against these ideological riders in the Appropriations Committee.”

Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, addressed both bill riders in a statement. “Every woman deserves access to basic health care, including abortion, no matter where she lives or how much money she makes,” said Singiser. “Our elected representatives should focus on expanding access to reproductive health care, not taking it away.”

Rep. Lee’s amendment to strike the DC rider from the bill was defeated in committee vote.

A separate draft-measure including anti-choice provisions in the FY 2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which funds the State Department and foreign aid, was released by the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee. The bill would significantly cut global funding of contraceptive and reproductive care by including President’s Trump’s “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy prohibiting all global health assistance to foreign nongovernmental organizations that promote or perform abortions, commonly known as the global gag rule—a move that upset pro-choice Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.

“In 2018, I find it hard to believe we are still arguing over the importance of international family planning and reproductive health programs,” Rep. Lowey said in a statement, before promising to introduce an amendment during full committee to exclude the cuts. “But the mark would slash investments in bilateral family planning, codify the global gag rule and its expansion into all global health, and prohibit U.S. contributions to [the United Nations Population Fund]. These policies would hurt vulnerable women and severely decrease the efficiency of U.S. aid programs.”

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