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Hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - "H.R.__, the Protect Life Act of 2011"


Location: Washington, DC

I'd like to thank my colleagues--on both sides of the aisle--for being here today for what promises to be a very interesting hearing.

The new Republican Majority has stated its commitment to an open and fair legislative process, and that will be reflected in this subcommittee. I ask all of my colleagues and our audience to treat each other and our witnesses with civility and respect. This hearing is an important part of the legislative process and we will conduct it accordingly.

I'd also like to acknowledge my friend, the Ranking Member, Mr. Pallone of New Jersey. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are as close together as the Phillies and the Yankees are far apart. This Phillies fan intends to work as closely as possible with Mr. Pallone, the Yankees notwithstanding.

I believe there are a great many things we can work on together for the good of this country. I look forward to cooperating with you this year.

When we disagree, I hope we will always do so without being disagreeable. I promise to do my part.

Pursuant to committee rules, I intend to make an opening statement--of not more than five minutes--and will then recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Pallone, for an opening statement. The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Upton, will then have a chance to give an opening statement--followed, finally, by the Ranking Member of the Committee, Mr. Waxman.

Today, we will hear testimony from one panel of three witnesses--two invited by the majority and one invited by the minority. All sides of the debate will be heard today and every Member will have a chance to question each of the witnesses.

The testimony we will hear today regards the prohibition of taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion coverage. For decades, there has been a clear prohibition against the use of federal dollars to pay for abortion. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act opened the door, for the first time in decades, to government financing of abortion.

My colleagues will recall that the House acted affirmatively to fix this, in a strongly bipartisan vote of 240 to 194.

We are all aware that abortion itself can be a controversial subject. What is far less controversial is the question of whether the taxpayers should be financing it. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment affirmed the view of 60 to 70 percent of Americans that government taxpayer money should not be involved in abortion.

Unfortunately, the Senate did not see fit to include the House's prohibition in its version of the bill, and it was the Senate bill that became law.

We need to be clear about some things as we start. The government does not finance abortions and has not done so for decades -- thanks to the Hyde amendment. Moreover, the government has never told any medical professional or medical institution that it must perform abortions.

This bill seeks to clarify these policies and give them permanence.

The President has on at least two occasions affirmed what we are doing here today. In his 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress, the president said, and I quote: "under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."

A year later, in his executive order, the president clearly endorsed the principle of no government funds going to abortion and--again--clearly endorsed the principle of not forcing healthcare professionals to act against the dictates of conscience.

But an executive order is not law. It can be rescinded at any time by this or any future president. It can be overturned by a judge, or simply ignored.

If we wish to respect the views of those who don't want their money used to finance abortion, if we wish to follow the wishes of the 60 to 70 percent of Americans who believe the government should not pay for the procedure--then Congress should send this bill to the President in short order.

The President is clearly on record supporting the principles in this bill. When it gets to his desk, I believe he will sign it.

The gentleman from New Jersey, the Ranking Member, Mr. Pallone, is now recognized for five minutes for an opening statement.

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