Nearly 50 senators pledge to oppose taxpayer-funded abortions

Nearly 50 senators have signed on to a letter pledging to oppose taxpayer funding of abortions.

Senate Pro-Life Caucus chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) announced the letter on Friday, as “a unified message” to Democratic leadership that the 47 signers would “vote to block any bill that would undermine the Hyde Amendment or any other pro-life protections.”

“We are united in our resolve to guard against any changes to Federal law that would unsettle nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, or otherwise threaten the lives of unborn children,” the letter states.

The Hyde Amendment, enacted into law each year since 1976, prohibits federal funding of elective abortions; the amendment is passed as a rider to budget legislation.

The policy has come under fire from Democrats in recent years, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in August that she intended to not include the Hyde Amendment in appropriations bills in 2021. President Joe Biden also supports the amendment’s repeal, after having supported the policy for years.

Pro-life groups are concerned about public funding of abortions in the 117th Congress. They have warned that the Hyde Amendment could be repealed or simply undermined through a number of ways, including the creation of new funding streams without specific protections against abortion funding.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has already urged members of Congress to not fund abortions or abortion coverage in an upcoming COVID relief bill.

In their letter, the senators said they would also oppose any measure “that would eliminate or weaken the Hyde Amendment or any other current-law pro-life protections, or otherwise undermine existing Federal pro-life policy.”

Notably, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) did not sign the letter. He vocally supported the Hyde Amendment in December, in an interview with National Review, and said he would vote against legislation repealing it.

Manchin, who is endorsed by Democrats for Life of America, is considered a key vote in the Senate with Democrats and Republicans both holding 50 seats. Some pro-life groups, however, have expressed caution over Manchin’s reliability as a critical pro0

Daines’ group of 47 senators would constitute a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, able to thwart passage of pro-abortion legislation. The filibuster is a parliamentary procedure that requires 60 votes to end debate and move a bill for consideration by the full chamber.

However, Democrats have said they will use the procedure of “reconciliation” to pass budget-related items; this procedure only requires a simple majority to pass a budget-related measure.

Daines told CNA last week that he is concerned Democrats could use reconciliation to pass a funding bill that does not include Hyde Amendment protections.

The Senate letter follows a similar effort in the House. On Jan. 26, nearly 200 House Republicans signed a letter upholding the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life budget riders that prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions.

The letter was endorsed by pro-life groups including the USCCB, Susan B. Anthony List, March for Life, Americans United for Life, and Live Action.