Abortion Politics Threaten U.S. Budget Battle

By | September 19, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19 (C-Fam) Abortion has roiled the ongoing budget battles in the U.S. Congress.

Democrats in the Senate plan to amend a foreign operations spending bill in order to block the so-called Mexico City Policy that bans taxpayer money from going to groups that promote or perform abortions. President Trump expanded the policy when he took office, calling his new policy the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy. Democrats want a legislative way to kill the executive mandate.

Senate Democrats also intend to use the Health and Human Services spending bill to block a Trump policy that would have the effect of stopping at least some federal funds going to Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. Critics call the rule a “domestic gag rule,” arguing that it would violate the free speech of Planned Parenthood personnel who counsel women on abortion.

Committee leadership had hoped to avoid the abortion controversy when Congress passed a two-year budget bill in August. They struck an informal agreement in which, among other things, Republicans would agree to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a Democrat promise not to insert abortion language that did not have bi-partisan support.

The deal was that any abortion language had to come from leaders of each party in both Houses of Congress as well as the White House. When Democrats signaled their intentions to offer abortion amendments, Senate Republicans canceled scheduled hearings on the bills.

The abortion budget battle started in the Democrat-led House of Representatives earlier this year.  When the House passed its version of the overseas funding bill, it included language to repeal the Mexico City Policy. What’s more, it would reinstate any funding that had been previously obligated but was nixed by the new policy.  The bill also reinstated funding to the UN Population Fund, and to UN Women, UN agencies that promote abortion.

House Democrats also increased federal funding to family planning organizations by $150M on top of an already massive $600M. Critics have pointed out that U.S. funding for family planning has remained the highest in the world for five decades even though the need for it has dwindled and developing countries report that the market for family planning in their countries is essentially saturated.

Republican leadership expected that their Democrat colleagues understood the “poison pill” agreement related to anything having to do with abortion. Yet Democrats now argue that because two Republicans, Senator Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), have supported such language in the past, that the riders are fair-play because they have bipartisan support. It remains to be seen whether Senate leadership and the White House agree.

The Senate pro-life caucus sent a letter to President Trump asking him to veto any bill that comes across his desk that revokes pro-life advances.

A likely solution to the impasse is a Continuing Resolution, which is reportedly scheduled for this Friday, which will keep the government funded beyond the September 30 deadline. This is the way the federal budget has been funded for several years and would keep programs funded at current levels.