Protecting the right to life

by Tom Cole

Ahead of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s consequential Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973, thousands of Americans will gather in our nation’s capital this week, representing the beliefs of millions more across the country, in defense of the vulnerable unborn. Indeed, as penned in the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers founded the United States with the strong belief that individuals are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” foremost among them being the right to life. In Congress, defending life has been and will continue to be one of my highest priorities as I represent the Fourth District of Oklahoma.

While the issue of abortion is an emotionally charged one with many differing points of view, lawmakers of both parties in Congress have agreed for decades that Americans’ taxpayer dollars should be kept out of it. And for decades, pro-life language contained in annual government funding bills have protected the conscience rights of all Americans. Unfortunately, last year, Democrats chose to remove these longstanding protections in the fiscal year 2022 bills reported by the House Appropriations Committee. 

Since it was first enacted in 1976, it is estimated that the so-called Hyde Amendment, named for its original author, has saved more than two million lives while also protecting the conscience rights of the great majority of Americans who oppose public funding for abortions. The Hyde amendment prevents federal taxpayer support of abortions unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or the abortion is performed to save the life of the mother. The removal of this amendment would not only force all federal taxpayers to contribute to abortion on demand, it would also impose a pro-abortion-funding policy on the 34 states, including Oklahoma, that have decided not to use their state tax funds for this purpose.

If that weren’t enough, Democrats are also trying to remove the so-called Weldon Amendment, which protects the conscience rights of medical professionals and health care providers from being forced into performing, participating in or paying for abortions against their will.

In response to this unprecedented attack on the conscience rights of all Americans, I led an effort, cosponsored with unanimous support from every House Republican, to restore these important protections as the appropriations bill moved through the subcommittee on which I serve as Ranking Member, to the full House Appropriations Committee, through the House Rules Committee and ultimately to the House Floor. Unbelievably, Democrats rejected my amendment at every stage of the process.  

The refusal of Democrats to side with the vast majority of taxpayers on these issues is not only misguided, it will have lasting ramifications upon Congress’s ability to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Indeed, until the out-of-touch liberal Democratic leadership change course and agree to restore these key provisions that make bipartisan negotiation with the Senate possible, they will receive no support from Republicans in passing the annual funding bills. Republicans refuse to allow the ongoing operation of our government to be held hostage to progressives’ demands for taxpayer-subsidized elective abortions for all.

The preservation of one of our nation’s most enduring promises to protect life and respect religious beliefs goes back to our country’s founding. That’s why I will always vehemently oppose any efforts to repeal the Hyde and Weldon Amendments. I remain committed to supporting legislation and efforts to defend vulnerable unborn children and protect the conscience rights of all Americans.