by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Mary Beth Waddell, J.D.
May 18, 2021
Family Research Council wrapped up another busy week monitoring activity in Congress that affects life, family, and religious freedom and being your voice on Capitol Hill. Here are the most important Hill items FRC worked on this week.
Health and Human Services Secretary Denies His Duty to Enforce Pro-life Laws
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) fiscal year 2022 budget. HHS has the largest budget of any federal agency.
When Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) questioned Secretary Becerra about enforcing the federal partial-birth abortion ban, Becerra acted like he didn’t know what a partial-birth abortion is, claiming that it is not a medical term. Representative John Joyce (R-Pa.) followed up with a forceful line of questioning. He read the clear language and definition of the federal partial-birth abortion ban that was signed into law by President Bush in 2003, which prohibits physicians from committing the barbaric practice of partially delivering an unborn child before ending their life. Once again, Becerra denied the law’s existence, instead citing his duty to enforce federal laws and statutes that protect a woman’s right to an abortion. After several more attempts to get Becerra to acknowledge the federal law and his duty to enforce it, Rep. Joyce concluded, “As a physician myself, Mr. Secretary, I clearly understand what a partial-birth abortion is.”
The outright denial of the partial-birth abortion ban’s existence by the very person responsible for enforcing federal health laws is deeply concerning. Especially since President Biden, the man who appointed Becerra to his cabinet, voted in support of the partial-birth abortion ban at least six times during his tenure as a senator from Delaware. Secretary Becerra’s comments at this week’s hearing reflect his opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban in 2003, when he was a congressman. It is evident that he prioritizes his abortion ideology over his duty as a public servant to enforce the law.
For more information on Becerra, see the following FRC resources:
House Passes Bill to Provide Abortion Accommodations Without Religious Employer Protections
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to protect pregnant women from being discriminated against in the workplace. However, pregnant women are still not always receiving appropriate and adequate accommodations. In an effort to make the workplace more accommodating to pregnant women, the House passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065) by a vote of 315-101. Although the basis for this bill is very pro-family, it does contain some concerning language.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act includes accommodations for pregnancy and related medical conditions. Over the years, courts have interpreted “related medical conditions” to include abortion. Therefore, where this bill creates accommodations for pregnant women, it also creates a mandate to provide accommodations for abortion. This mandate could prove problematic for pro-life or religious employers who have a moral objection to abortion and do not want to provide benefits that pay for abortions. When Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) offered an amendment to the bill that would include a reference to already existing protections for religious employers, Democrats wholly rejected the amendment because it would cause many members and outside groups to withdraw their support for the bill. The question still stands as to why Democrats or other groups would reject a pregnancy accommodation bill if religious employers were afforded existing protections in law. In addition, many of the major pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, are active supporters of this bill.
This bill will now move over to the Senate for consideration. FRC will continue urging senators to include additional protections or clarification to ensure this bill will not be used against employers with a moral objection to abortion.
Senate Rules Committee Stalls the Corrupt Politicians Act
The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a mark-up on the For the People Act (S. 1), otherwise known as the Corrupt Politicians Act. The committee spent over nine hours debating and voting on a multitude of amendments to the bill. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered an amendment that would have removed the unconstitutional religious test for individuals who would serve on redistricting commissions. FRC has voiced concerns with this particular portion of the bill and was pleased to see Sen. Cruz offer this amendment. Moreover, we were pleased to see the amendment pass by voice vote.
Several other significant problems in the bill were not addressed; therefore, FRC remains opposed to the bill. Ultimately, the committee failed to report the bill to the floor for a vote. While this is good news, Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may still bring it to the floor on his own prerogative. We remain vigilant and continue to watch the bill’s movement and engage the Hill with our concerns.
Other Notable Items FRC Tracked this Week
- The Senate confirmed Andrea Palm as a deputy secretary of HHS and Cindy Marten to be a deputy secretary of the Department of Education. Both are known to have an anti-life and anti-family record.
- Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), alongside members of the Senate Small Business Committee, sent a letter to the Small Business Administration to inquire about the investigations into Planned Parenthood continuing to receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans against congressional intent. This letter came after two additional Planned Parenthood locations had received PPP loans.
- In a departure from precedent, HHS announced that it will be interpreting and enforcing the sex nondiscrimination provisions of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to include sexual orientation and gender identity, prioritizing ideology above patient care.