The CRomnibus released late last night is fraught with the same bloated spending that has propelled the nation further into debt. In addition to serious fiscal concerns with the massive spending bill—not to mention the problems inherent in dropping a 1000-plus-page bill at the eleventh hour—the CRomnibus has some concerning provisions on life and conscience.
A few of those concerns are detailed below, along with policy ideas that would better protect life and conscience.
Tax Dollars Are Used to Support the United Nations Population Fund. The CRomnibus continues to entangle taxpayer funding with an organization that reportedly has ties to China’s coercive family planning regime. The bill appropriates $35 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), despite continued assertions that UNFPA has been complicit in China’s coercive one-child policy. The policy is often enforced by Chinese family planning officials through fines, forced abortions, and involuntary sterilization. Concerns about UNFPA donations were multiplied by a report released in 2011 that identified the organization among four of the U.N.’s largest aid agencies found to have stockpiled a total of $12.2 billion in unused donations in 2009.
International aid is often better provided through private organizations where stakeholders demand transparency and accountability. Congress should permanently eliminate all federal contributions to UNFPA.
Tax Dollars Are Still Entangled with Abortion Coverage. By continuing to fund the implementation of Obamacare, the bill would continue to entangle taxpayer dollars in abortion coverage. As the Heritage Foundation and others predicted when Obamacare was passed and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed this past fall, federal taxpayers in all 50 states are footing the bill for subsidies for the purchase of health plans on Obamacare exchanges that cover elective abortion. During the last enrollment period, more than 1,000 Obamacare exchange plans included coverage of elective abortion while remaining eligible for tax subsidies.
Congress should permanently prohibit federal funding of abortion and ensure transparency in health care. The No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (H.R. 7) would ensure that no federal funds could be used to pay for abortion or health benefit plans that cover abortion, including those offered through Obamacare exchanges. The current version of the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act also includes language from another bill, the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (H.R. 3279), which would address the serious lack of transparency about abortion coverage that has been noted by groups on both sides of the abortion debate.
Conscience Rights Are Not Better Protected. While long-standing pro-life riders are included in the omnibus, an urgent and much-needed policy to address a serious conscience violation in California is missing from the spending bill.
This past August, the Department of Managed Health Care in California issued a directive forcing almost all insurance plans in the state—including those offered by religious organizations, Christian schools, and even churches—to cover elective abortion. This is a severe infringement on the conscience rights of many individuals and organizations in California. It’s also a blatant violation of existing federal conscience policy, which prohibits state and local governments receiving certain federal funds from discriminating against entities that do not provide, pay for, provide coverage, or refer for abortions.
Yesterday, negotiations in Congress broke down to include an amendment with the text of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) in the spending package. ANDA’s language would have provided a private right of action for individuals and institutions, like those in California, who are discriminated against because they decline to fund or facilitate abortion procedures.
Instead of adding that text, the spending package includes non-binding language directing the Department of Health and Human Services to look into California’s infringement on conscience rights.
Congress’s failure to provide a much-needed amendment to federal conscience policy leaves countless churches, schools, religious organizations, and other pro-life employers in the state of California in an impossible situation: They can either continue paying for and providing insurance coverage that includes elective abortion, or drop health care coverage altogether.
Congress should provide victims of discrimination the ability to defend their right of conscience in court, not leave them to wait on bureaucrats in the Obama Administration to care about protecting conscience. The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (currently part of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, H.R. 940, a bill that would address other conscience issues in Obamacare) would do just that.