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Republican Lawmakers Tried to Use a Coronavirus Relief Package to Restrict Abortion Access

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes a stupid frowny face for reporters.

Last week, Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin worked to finalize a coronavirus economic relief package that ended up passing in the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Mitch McConnell, though, made the strange and selfish decision to send Senators home for the weekend before they could take even a roll call vote on the measure.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes a lot of dramatic and essential provisions to help Americans, including free testing, paid sick leave for all employees, and $1 billion in food assistance for those in need. However, there were reportedly two sticking points that kept Republican lawmakers as well as Donald Trump and his administration from getting onboard with the bill.

First, Republicans weren’t fans of that guaranteed sick leave, wanting instead to pour money into Wall Street rather than offer direct protections for workers.

The other issue was that Republicans wanted to add language related to the Hyde Amendment–the provision that bars federal funds for being used for abortions.

McConnell accused Pelosi of trying to sneak in language that could effectively overturn the amendment, saying she was using the legislation as an “ideological wish list.” Trump also said Democrats were trying to infuse it with “goodies.” McConnell blamed the House Speaker for the delay in the Senate, saying last week, “Instead of focusing on immediate relief to affected individuals, families and businesses, the House Democrats chose to wander into various areas of policy that are barely related if at all to the issue before us.”

In reality, it’s Congressional Republicans who are using Americans’ fears and need for economic support to push their anti-abortion agenda. What Pelosi wanted included in the bill was up to $1 billion for laboratory reimbursement claims. Republicans seemed to see this as opening a door to using federal funds for abortion, with one unnamed White House source telling the ultra-rightwing Daily Caller that Pelosi was trying to create an abortion “slush fund.”

So Republicans are using (or creating) this opportunity not just to remove the language they don’t like from the bill, but to spread anti-abortion misinformation and strengthen the already-terrible Hyde Amendment.

The bill has not yet reached the Senate as leadership continues to negotiate “corrections.” According to Pelosi, “We’ve resolved most of our differences and those we haven’t, we’ll continue to have conversations on, because there will obviously be other bills.”

So good on Pelosi for pushing through, but this still shines a light on the abhorrent ways in which Republican lawmakers will try to hold hostage the health of the American people in order to push their anti-abortion agendas.

According to Rewire.News, Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said Thursday in a statement:

It’s immoral to use the declaration of a global pandemic to turn people who need abortions into pawns for cheap political points. In a moment when legislators need to turn towards science and data to stem the tide of a public health crisis that threatens the most vulnerable among us, anti-abortion extremists are instead using fear to opportunistically sneak through ideologically cruel and medically unsound restrictions.

(image: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.