- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A congressional committee is taking up on its first full day in session under the Trump administration a stricter version of the Hyde Amendment that would be written into law instead of being attached to appropriations bills.

The Hyde Amendment bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions and has been approved as a rider in every Congress since 1976. Codifying the measure is a top priority for the pro-life movement because the Democratic Party last year officially voiced support for using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

The House Rules Committee will discuss HR7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, on Monday. It is identical to legislation introduced by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, that passed the House in 2015.

“There’s a growing recognition that abortion is violent,” Mr. Smith told The Washington Times. “Whether it’s by poison pill or dismemberment and other chemicals, the fact is there’s a trend, virtually every poll you look at, that says people don’t want public funding for abortion.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said pushing the bill through committee only days into a presidency indicates the 115th Congress is committed to passing — and President-elect Donald Trump, committed to signing — comprehensive pro-life legislation.

“There is no reason taxpayers should be funding abortion, directly or indirectly, and we applaud Speaker [Paul D.] Ryan and the House of Representatives for starting the process to make the Hyde Amendment permanent law,” Ms. Hawkins said. “This is a great sign that the Trump administration plans to follow through on their promises during the campaign, and we look forward to working together to make abortion unthinkable in this nation.”

Like the Hyde Amendment, HR7 would bar federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions or health care plans that cover them. The legislation also would prohibit abortions from being performed in federal facilities or by physicians in the employ of the federal government.

It contains exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and those that threaten the life of the mother.

Georgeanne Usova, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said legislation modeling the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionate effect on low-income women.

“It discriminates against low-income women and vulnerable women who rely on the government for health care by severely restricting their access to a health care service that is readily available to women of means and women with private insurance,” Ms. Usova said on a press call last week.

Although the Hyde Amendment has received bipartisan support over the years, the Democratic Party amended its platform last year to call for the provision’s repeal. Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton voiced her opposition to the amendment on the campaign trail.

“Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all,” Mrs. Clinton said about abortion.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, estimates the Hyde Amendment prevents as many as 60,000 abortions per year and has saved 2 million lives since it was enacted in 1976.

Its permanent codification is just one part of a comprehensive pro-life platform expected to be enacted by a unified Republican government.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump also promised to defund Planned Parenthood, sign into law a ban on abortions after the unborn can feel pain and nominate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Ryan, the House speaker, said a provision to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider will be included in the budget reconciliation legislation to repeal Obamacare. The fast-track bill could come up for a vote as early as next month.

Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, said codifying the Hyde Amendment and expanding its protections for the unborn make “a good first step” for congressional Republicans.

“The House’s timing shows that life-affirming legislation is getting the priority it deserves after eight years of hitting a brick wall on President Obama’s desk,” Ms. Rose said.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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