Pro-life group slams COVID relief bill for failing to include Hyde protections

Razor wire is shown atop a fence outside the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Razor wire is shown atop a fence outside the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

A pro-life group is slamming the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package for failing to include a guarantee that taxpayer dollars will not fund abortions.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, released a statement Thursday slamming President Joe Biden for signing into law the so-called "American Rescue Plan," the most recent legislative package passed purportedly to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but largely funds other projects.

Dannenfelser slammed congressional Democrats for failing to include Hyde Amendment protections for funds distributed in the massive spending bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.

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"How far the Democratic Party now led by Joe Biden has fallen. Once an ardent supporter of the Hyde Amendment, today Biden's transformation is complete," she lamented. "He has fully caved to the extremists in his party, signing a massive expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion." 

Dannenfelser had previously released a statement following the bill's passage in the House on Wednesday: "Shame on pro-abortion Democrats who exploited the COVID-19 relief to expand taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, breaking with more than four decades of bipartisan consensus. Most Americans, including millions of rank-and-file Democrats, oppose forcing taxpayers to fund abortions.

"Keeping taxpayers out of the abortion business should not be a partisan issue. Joe Biden himself was once an ardent supporter of the Hyde Amendment. He has caved to pro-abortion radicals within his party who chose to ignore this reality to their own political peril. Susan B. Anthony List will work tirelessly to educate voters so their elected officials are held accountable," she vowed.

Dannenfelser sounded the alarm about the relief package last week after the House passed it for the first time. She noted that "While previous bipartisan COVID relief packages have included Hyde protections on funding streams that fall outside of existing limits on abortion funding, this bill departs from the status quo by leaving funds open to use for abortion."

"This bill appropriates large sums of money for health activities and for community health centers outside of the Labor, Health, and Human Services appropriations, purposefully exempting the funds from the protection of the Hyde Amendment. This would allow the funding to be used for elective abortion, destroying rather than saving life," Dannenfelser warned. 

In a press release published over the weekend, Dannenfelser thanked Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and James Lankford, R-Okla., for introducing an amendment to the bill that would insert Hyde protections. While three Democrats joined all Republicans in supporting the amendment, it failed to pass because the amendment required the support of three-fifths of the senators as opposed to a simple majority.

As Dannenfelser mentioned, the previous coronavirus relief packages received bipartisan support. However, the American Rescue Plan passed both houses of Congress without attracting any support from congressional Republicans. Democrats had to rely on the reconciliation process to pass the measure.

The reconciliation process enables legislation to pass the United States Senate with a simple majority, in contrast to most other legislation, which requires 60 votes to pass the upper chamber. Under the reconciliation process, the legislation passes the House and then moves to the Senate, which then passes its own bill, and then the House signs off on the Senate-approved legislation before it goes to the president's desk.

Because Democrats have a 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, the bill passed without any support from Republicans. After the Senate passed the bill on a party-line basis, the House approved the bill by a 220-211 vote, with Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, joining all Republicans in opposing the measure. 

Although the effort to include Hyde protections in the stimulus package failed, Republicans did succeed in addressing another one of Dannenfelser's concerns about the stimulus package. The pro-life activist had highlighted how the bill, as passed by the House, "changes the rules for small business funding so that the abortion giant can tap into that money as well."

An intervention from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., prevented that provision of the bill from making it into the final legislative package approved by the Senate. According to a press release from Paul's office, "Democrats had planned to waive affiliation rules for nonprofits to provide paycheck protection loans to Planned Parenthood in the House version of the COVID-19 relief package.

"The Paul team strenuously argued to the Senate Parliamentarian that this waiver would only benefit Planned Parenthood and thus violated the so-called Byrd Rule. Before the parliamentarian was able to rule on the arguments presented, the Democrats filed an updated version of the bill that did not include the offending provision."

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