House Cuts Off Taxpayer Subsidies for Abortion

Bipartisan bill bans taxpayer abortion funding, makes Hyde Amendment permanent

• January 25, 2017 5:15 pm


The House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that will cut off any use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion just days before the annual March for Life.

The House voted 238-183 Tuesday evening to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. The bipartisan bill will curb the flow of money to the abortion industry by codifying the Hyde Amendment—a signing statement that has been renewed annually since 1976.

Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.), the co-chair of the House Life Caucus and the bill’s Republican sponsor, said that legislation was needed to ensure that the amendment would be made permanent. He credited the Hyde policy with saving 2 million lives that would otherwise have been ended by abortion.

"The American public not only does not support taxpayer funding for abortion but the public increasingly supports actions to protect unborn children and women from the violence of abortion," he said on the House floor. "The Hyde Amendment has saved at least two million lives—all of whom are precious and irreplaceable. It’s time to make it permanent law."

Polling backs up Smith’s assertion that voters do not want to see their tax dollars used to pay for abortion. A Marist poll commissioned by the Catholic Knights of Columbus found that more than 60 percent of people oppose taxpayer funding, while just 35 percent support it. The same poll found that pro-choice Americans outnumbered pro-lifers 52-42.

Despite its longevity, the Hyde Amendment has looked increasingly vulnerable. Democrats endorsed its repeal and called on Congress to embrace taxpayer-funded abortions in its 2016 party platform. Abortion supporters have also carved out several loopholes that have led to the direct and indirect use of taxpayer dollars for abortion. Half of all states and the District of Columbia allow Obamacare insurance plans to cover elective abortion.

The legislation closes that loophole by barring federal subsidies from being used to pay for that plan.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.) said that voters made it clear that they did not approve of the way that Obamacare and the federal government spends money.

"Americans have made it clear that they don't want their hard-earned tax dollars used to pay for abortions," he said.

The Republican-controlled House passed a version of the bill in 2011, but it was blocked by the Democratic Senate. Pro-life activists lauded the passage and urged President Donald Trump to sign it.

"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," Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, said in a statement. "When compared with highway, workplace, and child safety laws, Hyde is one of the most successful life-saving policies in U.S. history, which is why it's so despicable that Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry repeatedly lobby against it."

The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the upper chamber, 8 votes short of what is needed to pass in the face of a filibuster.

The legislation came two days after President Donald Trump signed the Mexico City Policy, which bans the use of foreign aid to pay for abortions overseas. More than 80 percent of respondents said they supported the policy, according to Marist.