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The Oklahoman: House committee allows federal funding of abortion, defeating Rep. Tom Cole's amendment

July 16, 2021
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

A House committee voted Thursday to allow federal funding of abortion, defeating an attempt by Rep. Tom Cole to add a prohibition that has been part of congressional policy for more than four decades.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 32 to 27 against an amendment by Cole, R-Moore, that would ban federal taxpayer funding of abortion and prevent health care professionals opposed to abortion from being required to assist with a procedure.

The vote followed sometimes passionate debate over the impact of the long-running prohibition on federal taxpayer money being spent on abortion through government health care programs.

Supporters of the so-called Hyde amendment argued that it has saved lives over the last 45 years, while opponents said it had denied women, particularly low-income women of color, a right to health care.

The Hyde amendment has been a routine part of the spending bill that funds the Health and Human Services Department.

Democrats considered omitting the Hyde amendment after taking control of the House in 2019 but decided against starting a fight that would be unwinnable with Republicans in control of the Senate and the White House. This year, Democrats have narrow control over the House and Senate, and President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has expressed support for eliminating the Hyde amendment.

Rep. Rose DeLauro, D-Conn., the chair of the Appropriations Committee, said, “The Hyde amendment is a discriminatory policy. … However we feel personally about abortion, we should not deny health coverage just because someone is working to make ends meet.”

Cole said the Hyde amendment was “one of our most enduring compromises to protect life and respect religious beliefs.”

“I do recognize that the issue of abortion is emotionally charged and that many Americans have differing points of view,” he said.

“But even for Americans who consider themselves pro-choice on this issue, many if not most don’t believe tax dollars should be used for abortion.”

He noted that states were allowed to use their own tax money to fund abortion through the Medicaid program but that 33 states and the District of Columbia had chosen not to fund abortion.

DeLauro said the “millions of economically insecure women” in states that don’t allow taxpayer funding of abortion are “hostage to their geography.”

“When Medicaid covers the cost of pregnancy-related care, including abortion, it means someone can make a decision based on what is best for their circumstances,” she said.

Cole and other Republicans warned that Democrats won't have enough support to get the spending bill through Congress without the Hyde amendment. The bill also includes funding for the Education and Labor departments. If a new bill is not passed, the policies negotiated last year — with a Republican Senate and former President Donald Trump, a Republican — would remain in effect for the departments, they said.

Cole said there would be no deal on a new bill without the Hyde amendment.

Online: The Oklahoman

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