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January 20, 2008

Indian Health Service - Vitter, Pitts Amendments

In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill, which forbids federal funding for abortion with the only exceptions being in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the woman. The Hyde Amendment has been in effect in various forms since October 1, 1976, during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The Indian Health Service, however, is funded outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment by the Interior Appropriations bill. IHS originally continued to fund abortion until administrative action intervened in 1982. In the subsequent 1988 reauthorization, Congress enacted 25 USC 1676 which applied the funding limitations found in the HHS appropriations measure to the IHS.

Twenty years after the original Hyde Amendment, Congress ensured a more consistent comprehensive federal policy by codifying the Hyde Amendment for the Department of Defense through the Defense Authorization bill in 10 USC 1093. This year Congress has the opportunity to do the same thing in the Indian Health Service bill.

In the House, Rep. Joe Pitts is planning on offering this amendment to H.R. 1328 in the full House Energy and Commerce Committee which is expected to take up the bill in the next week or two.

In the Senate, Sen. David Vitter is planning on offering this amendment to S. 2532 on the Senate floor which is expected to come up as the first major order of legislative business in the new year beginning this week.

These amendments will codify the Hyde Amendment and 26 years of precedent with respect to the Indian Health Service. Pray for passage.

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