It might not be a shocker that Democrats would try to reinstate Title X federal funding for “family planning services” to organizations that carry out abortions or provide abortion referrals, something that the Trump administration had ended. What was surprising is that they made the divisive move as part of a COVID-19 relief package.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion bailout package includes $50 million that will go toward the Title X program. However, the new administration will almost certainly end the Trump administration’s rule regarding funding organizations that provide abortion referrals — which means, essentially, the move restores a significant revenue stream for Planned Parenthood.
The corporate face of the abortion industry left the Title X program in 2019 after the Trump rule went into effect, costing it $60 million in annual funding, the Free Beacon reported.
The Trump rule change has had mixed success in court challenges. In February 2020, as Fox News reported, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the change. However, in September, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the rule change. That would normally set up an issue to be settled in the Supreme Court, but the change of presidential administrations almost certainly makes that moot.
This isn’t the only liberal wish list item that was included in Biden’s American Rescue Plan — and not even the most expensive line item that may have to do with abortion. Still, the move had pro-life groups sounding the alarm, particularly given it was done under the umbrella of COVID relief.
“House Democrats are shamefully pushing a massive expansion of abortion on demand, paid for with tax dollars, in the guise of COVID-19 relief — including payouts to abortion giant Planned Parenthood,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a news release last week.
“This divisive agenda flies in the face of the ‘unity’ the Biden-Harris ticket promised to inspire.”
You may wonder why the Biden administration would pursue this funding in a COVID relief package, considering the poor optics. The reason is that the alternative could look even worse for them.
The American Rescue Plan, as you may know, will be pushed through the Senate via budget reconciliation, if it’s pushed through at all. That means it only requires 51 votes — which, if the vote takes place along party lines, would be the 50 Senate Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris, who votes to break all ties. The filibuster doesn’t apply.
The Congressional Budget Act, which provides the underpinnings for the reconciliation process, holds that up to three reconciliation bills can be passed a year: one each on issues of taxation, spending and the debt limit.
Realistically, this sets the limit at two bills; as the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities notes, a taxation bill will almost always involve spending, meaning you can either pass a tax-and-spend bill or a straight spending bill, along with a debt limit bill. (This will all be on the test later.)
Given that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t necessarily affect Congress’ ability to spend, this means there’s only one chance to pass the bill by a straight party-line vote — unless, of course, Democrats want to invoke the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster. When and if they do that, it might not be the wisest move on anything specifically involving abortion, which tends to be a hot-button political issue.
The Hyde Amendment is legislation that forbids federal funding for elective abortions through Medicaid, meaning it wouldn’t necessarily apply to global health activities — but, as Catholic News Agency pointed out, doing away with it has been a major legislative priority for Democrats now that they have both houses of Congress. However, Republicans have promised to filibuster any bill that tries to end the Hyde Amendment.
If Democrats want to follow through on their promise, they’d have to do it via the nuclear option, and it’d be on a topic that’s generally unpopular with voters.
In a Marist/Knights of Columbus poll released conducted Jan. 11-13, 58 percent of Americans said they oppose federal funding of abortion, compared with only 38 percent who supported it.
The Title X carveout for organizations like Planned Parenthood is predicated on the idea that they wouldn’t use the money for abortions or to promote them. However, pro-life advocates have long said funding organizations that perform abortions or provide referrals for abortions is a way of propping up these “women’s health” groups.
In its news release, the Susan B. Anthony List said the Biden administration’s repeal of the Trump administration’s rule and the injection of new money meant “Title X would once again become a slush fund for abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood.”
“Emboldened by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Democrats in Congress want to force taxpayers to bail out the abortion industry,” Dannenfelser said in the release.
“Polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including millions of rank-and-file Democrats, are opposed to bankrolling abortion businesses whether in this country or overseas.”
In other words, $50 million in Title X funding isn’t the kind of thing where you’d see wide support for invoking the nuclear option, especially when it involves Planned Parenthood. That’s why it got snuck into the COVID relief bill.
It’s indefensible either way as a use of American taxpayer dollars — and a move pro-life voters need to remember in 2022 and beyond.