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Cole Offers Amendment to Protect Life and Conscience Rights

July 15, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – During a House Appropriations Committee markup for fiscal year 2022 this afternoon, Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) offered an amendment to restore longstanding and traditionally bipartisan pro-life provisions, the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, removed by Democrats on the panel. The amendment was offered in response to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. Cole is the Ranking Member of the LHHS House Appropriations Subcommittee.

First enacted in 1976, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal tax dollars from funding abortions and has been included in appropriations bills every year since then with bipartisan, bicameral support. First authored in 2005 and included in annual appropriations every year since then, the Weldon Amendment protects American doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from participating in or providing an abortion if they have a moral objection; it has also been supported by members across the aisle and the Capitol since it was first enacted.

During the markup, Cole made the following remarks about the importance of restoring the Hyde and Weldon language, which was blocked by Democrats before the bill was reported:

My amendment is simple. It restores the language carried in this bill for over 45 years that protects life and prevents federal taxpayer-funded abortions. Since it was first enacted in 1976, it is estimated that this provision – known as the Hyde Amendment after its original author, the late Congressman Henry Hyde – has saved more than two million lives. This language has been supported by lawmakers and signed into law by presidents of both parties every year as part of the appropriations process. And every Democratic member sitting in this room today has voted for it in the past, as recently as last December.

When President Biden was serving in the United States Senate, he supported including the amendment in appropriations bills and showed support for the provision as recently as just two years ago while campaigning for president. He has since flip-flopped on this issue, under pressure from the far-left that controls the Democratic party in this area, and proposed removal of the protection in his budget request.

But this bill goes even further than just forcing American taxpayers to foot the bill for abortion on demand. This bill also deletes conscience protection language added 16 years ago by then-Congressman Dave Weldon. That language protects American doctors, nurses and other health care professionals from participating in or providing an abortion if they have a moral objection. This is an essential right of every American and its removal is a danger to us all. I want to point out that even President Biden’s left-leaning budget did not propose removal of this important language.

Last month, 22 State Attorneys General sent a letter to congressional leaders outlining in detail their objections to the removal of the Hyde Amendment in the President’s FY22 Budget Request. “Repealing the Hyde Amendment would impose a pro-abortion-funding policy on states that have decided against it,” they stated. The Hyde Amendment allows states to choose to fund elective abortions or not with state taxpayer dollars, and the people and elected representatives of 34 states have voluntarily chosen not to do so. 

I will always come down firmly on the side of protecting and saving the lives of unborn children as well as defending the conscience rights of American taxpayers. I do recognize that the issue of abortion is emotionally charged and that many Americans have differing points of view. But even for Americans who consider themselves pro-choice on this issue, most don’t believe tax dollars should be used for abortion. In fact, 60 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.

Gutting this provision that has been included in appropriations bills for nearly 50 years is certainly an overreach by the far left. But it also threatens to destabilize the entire appropriations process because this bill will never become law if this language is not included. Democrats in Congress simply do not have the majorities capable of passing this bill without Republican votes. The United States Senate will never pass this bill without the Hyde language. And 200 Republicans have already signed a letter to congressional leadership earlier this year, pledging to oppose any federal government funding bill that would weaken or eliminate longstanding pro-life protections.

I think abandoning all the work done this year in favor of a full-year continuing resolution that simply reestablishes the budget negotiated by the last Congress and President Trump would be a failure in our responsibility as legislators and appropriators. But that is the path we will be on if this bipartisan language protecting taxpayers and vulnerable unborn children is not included.

I want to again reiterate the points I made in my opening statement. There are several deeply concerning and troubling parts of this bill. There are many amendments that could be offered to make this bill better and address these concerns. But this is the only amendment we all know must be addressed before any other issue can be considered. If we cannot get agreement here, it does not matter how we handle any other concern from our side of the aisle – the bill is guaranteed to fail. 

There is no moral equivalent to life and death. The preservation of one of our nation’s most enduring compromises to protect life and respect religious beliefs goes back to our founding principles. Any other issue falls far short of that standard. That is why we offer this amendment first. That is why this amendment has unanimous support on our side. And that is why we will vigorously fight to ensure this amendment is included in any final agreement. 

No other issue we discuss today will carry such importance. Removing the Hyde Amendment is an extremist left-wing proposal that is out of step with the values of the American people and cannot become law in this Congress. I urge passage of the amendment.

In addition, Cole’s general remarks at the start of today’s committee markup can be found HERE.