Two Catholic witnesses at a Jan. 9 hearing on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act endorsed the bill, one of them calling it "long overdue."
One of those testifying at the hearing sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice was Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
Doerflinger said the bill, if enacted, would "write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years" with the adoption of the Hyde amendment in the annual appropriations bill for the federal department of Health and Human Services.
"Even public officials who take a 'pro-choice' stand on abortion have supported bans on public funding as a 'middle ground' on this contentious issue -- in recognition of the fact that it is not 'pro-choice' to force others to fund a procedure to which they have fundamental objections," Doerflinger said.
"And even courts insisting on a constitutional 'right' to abortion have said that this alleged right 'implies no limitation on the authority of a state to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.'"
Doerflinger said the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act may still force Americans to pay for elective abortions through state insurance exchanges.
"Each insurance company will decide whether its plan will include elective abortions, for those who receive federal subsidies as well as those who do not," Doerflinger said.
"Once that decision is made, federal law will demand that every enrollee must help pay for those abortions, notwithstanding any conscientious objection they may have," he continued. "This mandatory surcharge for abortion will be kept in a separate account from the account used for federal premium subsidies, apparently so it can be said that no 'federal tax dollars' are being used for elective abortions; and insurers are forbidden by federal law to make any special effort to inform people that their plan includes such abortions, or to tell them how much they will be paying for other enrollees' abortions."
He added, "This 'separation of funds' scheme is contrary to the policy of the Hyde amendment and parallel laws, which forbid federal subsidies to any part of a benefits package that includes elective abortions. It also violates the spirit of these laws in terms of subsidies for abortion itself.
"If I find myself explicitly forced by federal law to pay for other people's abortions, as a condition for receiving the health care my family and I need," Doerflinger said, "is it really that important to me whether the law calls the forced payment a 'premium' rather than a 'tax'?"
Helen M. Alvare, a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia and a public information officer for the U.S. bishops' pro-life secretariat in the 1990s, testified: "It serves the interests of American women for the federal government once and for all to remove itself from the business of abortion funding."
"Americans, including American women, have never made and will never make our peace with abortion," Alvare said. "Abortion is not a social good deserving of federal funding, let alone funding in the name of women's health or well-being."
The federal budget funds programs that "support and promote human life versus death, insecurity and want," Alvare said. "But abortion, in the words of our Supreme Court, is different. Even if the court doesn't get its biology exactly right, it has said that 'no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of potential human life.'"
When it comes to the role abortion plays in the federal government's efforts to promote women's health, Alvare said, "the federal government is decidedly uncurious about the role abortion plays respecting women's health. The Centers for Disease Control doesn't even require mandatory reporting by the states and consequently doesn't have complete or standardized data on abortion."
The CDC's own listed top threats to pregnant women's health are heart disease, stroke and cancer, Alvare said, and it acknowledges the problems of infertility, carrying a baby to term, and ingesting substances that could harm the unborn child.
But "the federal government has collected no dispositive data about the relationship between abortion and women's health. When it addresses women's health priorities, it rather offers advice to women about caring for their unborn child, and says nothing about abortion as health care," Alvare said. "There is no empirical basis, therefore, upon which federal lawmakers can make the claim that women's health is promoted by funding abortion."