The Congressional Pro-Life Caucus is cautioning that the coronavirus stimulus bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives contains numerous concerns for pro-life supporters.
The issues stem from multiple parts of the bill that open the door for funding to go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, passed the House Friday, May 15, in a 208-199 vote.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged swift action on passing another coronavirus relief bill over the weekend in a CBS News interview. The $3-trillion HEROES Act is the fifth coronavirus-related relief package.
Republican senators have also said the bill is “dead on arrival,” with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has describing the proposed package as “another big laundry list of pet priorities” that has "no chance of becoming law.”
Both the underlying text of the 1800-page H.R. 6800, and the Manager’s Amendment adopted by the House Committee on Rules on Thursday, “contain multiple pro-life concerns” the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus said in a release to pro-life organizations, including details on some of the bill's pro-life problems.
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In the underlying bill text:
Two relief funds, $540 billion for states and $375 billion for local governments (pgs. 22-33), lack clear pro-life protections, the Pro-Life Caucus said, and the stimulus bill does not prevent states or local governments from using the funding to cover other abortion facility expenses.
The bill also creates a novel Health Care Provider Relief Fund with $100 billion to “reimburse…eligible health care providers for…expenses or lost revenues to prevent, prepare for, or respond to COVID-19” (pg. 570).
Eligible health care providers are defined as those that provide “diagnostic or testing services or treatment to individuals with a confirmed or presumptive diagnosis of COVID-19” (pg. 585).
Considering that some Planned Parenthood sites offer primary care and may choose to provide the services outlined, the Caucus said, they may be eligible for these funds.
Under the bill’s division providing for additional relief aid for workers, there are expansions of federal subsidies of employer-sponsored health insurance, including plans that cover abortion (pg. 236) and (pg. 267).
Under a section for worker health coverage protection, the government will pay 100% of COBRA premiums for continuing coverage between March 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021 (pgs. 402-448). Many employer-sponsored health care plans include elective abortions, the Pro-Life Caucus noted, however no Hyde protections were applied in the bill to ensure that taxpayer dollars would not finance abortion-covering plans.
In amendments to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the CARES Act (beginning pg. 821), the HEROES Act removes the affiliation rule (500 employee threshold) from the PPP. This means that all nonprofits would now be eligible for consideration for assistance, and Planned Parenthood may no longer be excluded due to its number of employees (16,000 nationwide).
The stimulus bill creates a COVID-19 Heroes Fund (pg. 1527) that will give grants for employers to pay individual essential workers $13/hour up to $10,000 above normal employee earnings until 60 days after the last day of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Nothing bars abortion facility employees from eligibility for this premium pay, the Pro-life Caucus points out, the bill actually stating that essential workers include “[h]ealth care work physically provided in outpatient settings (including… other clinics… ambulatory surgical centers, and other related settings).”
And nothing in the bill prevents Planned Parenthood, which has been deemed essential in several states, from applying for grants to provide its employees with the premium pay.
In the Manager’s Amendment:
Offered by Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), adopted May 14 by the House Committee on Rules and automatically included it in the underlying bill, there is language in the Managers Amendment to HR 6800, the HEROES Act, that ensures legal protection for abortion funding to be included in relief benefits in both the HEROES Act and previous coronavirus relief bills.
If adopted, the Pro-Life Caucus said, this provision could override the Hyde protections that have been included in this latest proposed bill and in past COVID-19-related legislation as well.
This would include the CARES Act (HR 748), the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (HR 6201), and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (HR 6074).
The Manager’s Amendment also has two provisions that give funding to group health insurance plans. Neither has any Hyde protection language to guarantee taxpayer dollars will not got to health plans that include elective abortion.
Some Senate lawmakers are saying they are willing to negotiate parts of the HEROES ACT, in particular, hazard pay for essential workers, WWLP-22News reports.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on May 14 that said, “If H.R. 6800 were presented to the President, his advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
The SAP decried several components of H.R. 6800, including the bill’s proposed “changes to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and other policies that undermine the sanctity of life.”
Further action on the this or any other relief package is not expected until after the Memorial Day recess.