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GOP-controlled House committee backs abortions for Peace Corps volunteers

More federal funding for abortion got bipartisan, bicameral support this week in Congress.
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Rep. Hal Rogers, R-KY, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks during the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in April 2013. halrogers.house.gov
Dustin Siggins By Dustin Siggins

Dustin Siggins By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More federal funding for abortion got bipartisan, bicameral support this week in Congress.

On Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment by Democratic Rep. Nina Lowey of New York that would allow Peace Corps volunteers federal abortion coverage under the Hyde Amendment.

"This is outrageous. The GOP, whose platform formally opposes abortion, just passed a pro-abortion bill through one of Capitol Hill's most influential committees."

The amendment was approved by a voice vote, as part of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that passed the Appropriations Committee. The Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee approved the same amendment a week earlier.

According to Matt Dennis, a spokesperson for the Democratic staff on the House Appropriations Committee, Lowey's amendment brings female Peace Corps employees in line with other federal employees covered under the Hyde Amendment.

Dennis told LifeSiteNews that under current policy, "if a woman serving in the Peace Corps is a victim of rape while serving abroad, becomes pregnant, and elects to terminate the pregnancy, she pays for that out of pocket. That is different from women serving in the military, Foreign Service officers, Medicaid recipients, immigrant detainees, female prisoners, etc."

"Peace Corps volunteers are the only women serving the federal government not covered by the Hyde Amendment," continued Dennis. "Rep. Lowey's amendment offers those same Hyde protections to women in the Peace Corps."

The Hyde Amendment is an annual funding rider that allows federal funding for abortion only in the cases where justification is related to life of the mother, rape of the mother, or an incestuous relationship. The Peace Corps has been banned from using federal funds for abortions since 1979.

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On its website, the House Appropriations Committee describes Lowey's amendment as one that "adds language to the bill related to health care coverage for Peace Corps volunteers." Human Life International Communications Director Adam Cassandra criticized this description of the amendment, saying that "purposefully killing another innocent human being is not health care."

According to Cassandra, abortion itself "is not health care. The spin on this from members of Congress and radical lobbyist organizations is that this is a health care issue," but "further assaulting a woman who is a victim of rape with the violent act of abortion is in no way a humane or compassionate response to her situation, and taking the life of that child can never be justified."

"American citizens are actively funding the greatest human rights abuse in history, both here and in countries around the world,” said Cassandra. “That members of Congress continue to allow, and now expand, taxpayer funding for this crime against humanity is utterly reprehensible."

Blogger and former nurse Jill Stanek was similarly critical. "This is outrageous," said the outspoken pro-life activist. "The GOP, whose platform formally opposes abortion, just passed a pro-abortion bill through one of Capitol Hill's most influential committees."

The Republican Party's platform says that it “support[s] a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse[s] legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children.” However, the platform is a non-binding measure on politicians and state parties.

"This might be good politics in the Beltway, but all the GOP really did was cave to feminist rhetoric and decide that throwing more taxpayer money to the abortion industry is acceptable public policy," said Stanek.

According to a senior Hill aide, the future of the amendment is still unknown, though it is headed for a vote in each chamber of Congress. The aide said that the amendment could survive in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, or it could get added to a Continuing Resolution, or get added in a lame duck session of Congress after the 2014 midterm elections.

However, the amendment could also not survive. "Basically," said the aide, "the system is broken, so nobody knows what might happen."

The amendment is similar to one that passed Congress in December 2012. That amendment allowed women in the military to have government-funded abortions if they were raped. While the amendment was blocked in the House, conference committee negotiators added it in to the final version of the bill that passed Congress on an up-and-down vote.

Republicans on the conference committee who approved the military amendment's inclusion in the conference bill include Senate Armed Ranking Member Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-CA.

Offices of several Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees did not respond to LifeSiteNews' multiple requests for comment about the Peace Corps amendments. They include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-KY, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-GA, and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE.


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