On March 29, 2011, Rep. Brett Guthrie introduced H.R. 1216 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was introduced with the title, “To amend the Public Health Service Act to convert funding for graduate medical education in qualified teaching health centers from direct appropriations to an authorization of appropriations.” On the same day, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and was eventually reported out of committee on April 27.
So, what does this bill have to do with the pro-life movement? What does all the political jargon and legislative speak really mean? Does the passage of this bill in the House truly aid the pro-life cause? If so, what further action, if any, is needed to ensure that the bill becomes law?
You might recall that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, contains language which setup public health programs which would receive mandatory funding. In this case, H.R. 1216 aims to cut mandatory funding to certain health centers that provide graduate medical training.
To be certain, reasonable people can disagree over whether or not this is something that should receive taxpayer funding. The bill’s author and supporters, at least, believe so. This is because the bill was not written so as to necessarily cut all funding to graduate medical training programs. Instead, the bill would simply change the way such programs are funded.
This is where legislative speak comes into play. In the seemingly intimidating title, notice the phrases convert funding and from direct appropriations to an authorization of appropriations. In layman’s terms this simply points out that the bill would change the various graduate medical training programs from receiving direct, or mandatory, funding. Instead, programs could still receive funding, but qualified teaching health centers would have to convince lawmakers that their program was worthy of receiving funding. In this way, lawmakers would, potentially, be able to better utilize taxpayer money by providing funding to only the most successful graduate medical training programs.
On the surface, it appears as though H.R. 1216 has nothing to do with protecting life; however, a closer examination reveals a golden pro-life nugget. Specifically, that golden nugget is Rep. Virginia Foxx’s amendment.
Overall, Rep. Foxx’s amendment was the only one adopted out of the four offered. Her amendment prohibited “the use of funds provided for graduate medical education from being used to provide abortion or training in the provision of abortion. Additionally, funds would not be provided to a teaching health center if the institution discriminates against individual health care entities that refuse to provide abortion, under go training in the provision of abortion, or offer referral for abortion services.” In the end, Rep. Foxx’s amendment was adopted by a vote of 234-182, and the entire bill passed the House with a vote of 234-185.
If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the inclusion of Foxx’s amendment in such legislation would ensure that taxpayer funds would not be used to fund abortions or even to teach medical students how to perform abortions. In addition, medical training facilities would not be funded if they discriminated against entities that refuse to participate in abortions, train for abortion services, and/or refer individuals to an abortion provider.
Ultimately, H.R. 1216 and Rep. Foxx’s amendment are a victory for life. However, if the Senate fails to take up and pass the House bill, it will prove to be quite a hollow victory. In order to protect life, we must press our Senators to take action on the bill and make Rep. Virginia Foxx’s amendment the centerpiece of any such legislation.