Twenty-five Republican members of the Senate urged Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on May 23 to preserve “all long-standing pro-life and religious freedom protections in all appropriations bills” that advance out of the committee.
The senators also appealed to Shelby “that you do not advance as bill-text any language that weakens pro-life and religious liberty actions taken by the Trump administration.
“The unborn are the most vulnerable members of our society, yet they are under attack. In 2015 alone, 638,169 unborn children lost their lives to abortion,” they said.
“This is a terrible tragedy, and we must continue to prevent federal funding from supporting the unjust practice of elective abortion.”
The 25 signers of the letter to Shelby include:
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
The signers also told Shelby that “the right to live and worship in accordance with one’s religious beliefs is a bedrock principle of the American founding. The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits Congress from interfering in the free exercise of religion. With this in mind, it is critical to retain the longstanding riders in appropriations legislation that safeguard the ability of citizens to live out their faith.”
The letter to Shelby comes against a backdrop of aggressive moves by pro-life advocates to win passage of new legislation that significantly limits when abortions can be performed.
In Alabama, for example, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a measure that effectively bans all abortions and contains no exceptions for rape or incest, making the new law the nation’s toughest.
Other states considering similarly restrictive measures include Missouri and Texas.
The aggressive pro-life campaigns followed actions in New York in which pro-abortion advocates succeeded in gaining passage of a measure that essentially makes the procedure available right up to the point of a baby’s birth.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure amid a celebration with pro-abortion advocates.
The federal measures the 25 senators seek to protect have been in place in one form or another since passage in 1976 of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding of abortions. The amendment was named after former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).
A recent Government Accounting Office report said Planned Parenthood (PP) received more than $1.5 billion from the government between 2013 and 2015. Planned Parenthood says it uses federal dollars for non-abortion-related expenses.
Nationwide, PP clinics performed more than 320,000 abortions during each of those years.
President Donald Trump renewed the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy initiative in 2017 that bars U.S. foreign-aid dollars from being used to pay for abortions.
The policy was first instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 during a United Nations conference in Mexico City and was continued by President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not observe the Mexico City policy.
The 25 senators also encouraged Shelby to ensure that “no riders be added that would threaten” Trump’s renewal of the Mexico policy, and they noted that a recent Marist poll “showed that 75 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion abroad.”