GOP Defense Bill Would End Abortion, Sex-Change Drugs at VA Facilities| National Catholic Register

The amendments for the defense spending bill add new language that mirrors the Hyde Amendment.

House Republicans advanced legislation that would prevent Veterans Affairs facilities from performing abortions in most cases, block funds for sex-change drugs, and establish religious-freedom protections. 

The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee included these provisions in a defense spending bill, which provides more than $317 billion in funding for the Department of Defense (DOD). They were added through amendments proposed by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, and approved on a party-line vote 34-27.

Some of the amendments are meant to circumvent new policies created by Veterans Affairs, such as the Interim Final Rule that allows abortion in some cases, and its decision to provide patients with hormone therapy and prosthetics to help facilitate sex changes.

“Not only was the VA new [abortion] regulation contrary to current law, it also was a significant change from current policy practice,” Carter told committee members. “This is something that should be handled by Congress, not by the executive branch and that department or through any interim regulation.” 

The amendments add new language that mirrors the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion, except in the cases of rape and incest and to save the life of the mother. Lawmakers said this is intended to prevent most abortions in VA facilities and enforce already-existing laws.

Carter’s proposals would also prevent DOD funds from being used to support hormone therapy and sex-change surgeries through Veterans Affairs facilities. The VA does not provide funds for transgender surgeries, but it does provide hormone therapy, which would be halted through this bill.

Another amendment would add language to explicitly prohibit religious discrimination related to grant awards and contracting decisions. 

“The language added in this provision would give confidence to the American people that individuals whose deeply held religious views support marriage as between one man and one woman would not preclude this person from receiving fair treatment under the law,” U.S> Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., said. 

The proposed rules would also add restrictions on what flags can be flown over Veterans Affairs buildings. It would allow the United States flag; flags of the state, territory or Indian tribal government; department flags; armed forces flags; and POW/MIA flags.

Although the flag rule did not explicitly ban homosexual “Pride” flags, VA facilities would not be allowed to fly such flags under the amendments. Some lawmakers, including Guest, indicated that political messaging through flags was the motivation for the amendment. 

“Recently in my home state of Mississippi, a VA facility on the Mississippi Gulf Coast chose to replace an American flag with an LGBTQ ‘Pride’ flag,” Guest said. “I had joined several of my colleagues … in expressing our deep concern with this practice and the need to ensure that the work and the message of the VA is not divisive, is not controversial, and is not promoting a particular gender ideology.”

The amendments were approved en bloc, which means lawmakers voted for them altogether rather than individually. Several Democrats criticized many of the provisions in these amendments. 

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., who is in a same-sex civil marriage, said Congress should be saying “thank you” to gay veterans, “not get lost, hit the road, or just leave.” He said the amendments subject the veterans’ bill to culture wars.

“Simply looking at a ‘Pride’ flag will not make you gay, so that is not a concern you should have,” Pocan added. “… Look, I get anti-woke, but at some point, anti-woke is also anti-sane, and we look ridiculous.”

The legislation is still in the House committee process. If the bill passes the Republican-led House, it would still need to get through the Senate, which has a Democratic majority.

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