WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The $1.7 trillion, 4,115-page omnibus package that was signed into law late last month with the help of establishment Republicans over the objections of conservatives contains several causes of concern for the pro-life cause that went largely overlooked at the time, analysis reveals.
As previously covered by LifeSiteNews, the omnibus contains $286 million for the Title X family planning program, which in turn will fund abortion giant Planned Parenthood thanks to President Joe Biden having rescinded the Trump-era rule excluding the abortion industry from the funds. But further review of the legislation’s text reveals additional causes for concern.
Chief among those is the so-called Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which in the past has been proposed as a standalone bill. Ostensibly meant to require businesses to “make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a qualified employee,” the PWFA could be interpreted as imposing abortion mandates, pro-life analysts have warned.
“Under the bill … pro-life groups can be sued if they don’t provide their employees special leave to get abortions,” Catholic Vote director of government affairs Tom McClusky says. “I’m surprised some pro-life groups that aren’t covered under RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] don’t seem to realize how this bill would impact their own operations.”
Catholic Vote’s Erika Ahern adds that the meaning of “discrimination” under the PWFA would be at the mercy of the pro-abortion Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: “The EEOC does not typically act in a way that aligns with pro-life or Catholic views. In general, the EEOC has interpreted ‘pregnancy-related’ discrimination issues to include protecting workers’ ‘right’ to abortion.”
The version in the omnibus was added by Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana with language clarifying that it does not require employers to pay for “any particular item, procedure, or treatment” and clarifying that Title VII’s existing protections for religious employers applied to it, but some pro-life organizations expressed concern as to the strength of the language, prompting Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma to offer an amendment with stronger religious exemption language, but it failed 53-44.
Also concerning is the so-called PREVENT Pandemics Act, introduced by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina ostensibly to improve research and monitoring of infectious diseases as well as emergency response coordination and management of outbreaks.
It creates two federal grants, a $175 million one “for the conduct of evidence-based or evidence-informed projects” and a $250 million one “to promote positive healthy behaviors and outcomes for populations in medically underserved communities” by supporting community health efforts, both of which lack language clearly disqualifying abortion providers, which is particularly alarming given the Biden administration’s fixation on interpreting abortion “access” as a basic health need.
All of the above is even more vulnerable to pro-abortion exploitation in light of the fact that last September the Biden Justice Department declared that the Hyde Amendment, the longstanding yearly language that prevents most federal funds from going directly to elective abortion procedures, is “best read to prohibit only direct expenses for the procedure itself and not indirect expenses, such as those for transportation to and from the medical facility where the procedure is performed.”
Senate Republicans’ acquiescence to the omnibus is just one of the latest contributing factors to ongoing hostility between the GOP’s leadership and its conservative base, which this week is boiling over into a contentious battle for the Speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives and will continue to shade the battles within a divided federal government over the next two years.