In the midst of the longest-ever government shutdown in U.S. history, Senate Republicans have instead decided to consider a bill on Thursday to codify existing restrictions that make it harder for low-income people to get abortions.
The bill codifies the Hyde Amendment — a provision that passes annually and prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from covering abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment — among other things. The bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes it needs to move forward. The vote also comes ahead of this weekend’s March for Life rally, the largest annual anti-abortion event nationwide.
Vote Scheduled: At approximately 4:30 pm on Thursday, January 17th, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S.109, a bill to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions
— Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) January 16, 2019
“By voting on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the pro-life majority in the Senate is showing they’ll be a brick wall when it comes to trying to force taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement ahead of the vote.
Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown continues into its 27th day. The shutdown has been devastating for thousands of furloughed federal employees and has been especially hard for Native communities who receive a wide-range of federal services due to treaty obligations.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has repeatedly blocked House-passed packages to fund the federal government, as they did not include funding for a border wall. Trump is currently trying to get $5 billion in funding for a border wall that he previously insisted Mexico would pay for. McConnell has refused to bring any bill to the Senate floor that the president does not support, saying the Senate will not “participate in something that doesn’t lead to an outcome.”
The bill now under consideration aims to permanently ban federal funding for abortion care also has zero chance of passing Congress, but that didn’t stop McConnell from filing cloture on the motion to proceed on Wednesday. In the history of Congress, there are more House members than ever before looking to restore federal funding for abortion services, according to a ThinkProgress analysis.
McConnell has done virtually everything — including argue about Israel — but allow a vote to reopen the federal government.
“All it would take is a vote — we know it would pass — and we can move it through the House and send it to the president,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Wednesday.
“But what have Republican leaders done instead? What have they done instead of scheduling a vote to help workers, families, small business owners, and our economy?…. They have done what they’ve always done when they don’t know what else to do! They’ve scheduled a vote to attack women and their health care.”
The Hyde amendment, a measure passed annually through appropriation bills, disproportionately affects marginalized communities, as about 51 percent of Medicaid enrollees of reproductive-age and thus subjected to abortion coverage restrictions are women of color. This means pregnant women and gender minorities looking to have an abortion have to either use state Medicaid dollars (which most states do not allow), ask non-profits for assistance, or pay for it themselves. An abortion can cost upwards of $3,500, depending on the location and trimester.
The anti-abortion bill — sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) — goes beyond Medicaid. The measure also prohibits abortion in federal health facilities (like government-run veterans’ hospitals); codifies a Washington, D.C., Hyde Amendment; and bans subsidized Obamacare health plans from providing abortion coverage.
UPDATE: This bill failed Thursday afternoon by a vote of 48 to 47; the bill needed 60 votes to advance.