Coalition Opposes Harmful Health Policy Riders in Appropriations Bills

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Yesterday, the American Humanist Association joined 88 other organizations in voicing opposition to anti-women’s health policy riders that have been proposed during FY2018 funding negotiations. Funding must be protected for programs that improve health outcomes for women, men, and young people, including LGBTQ people.

Read the letter below or download a PDF version.

December 14, 2017

The Honorable Thad Cochran


U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

S-128, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy

Vice Chairman

U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

S-146A, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rodney Frelinghuysen


U.S. House Committee on Appropriations

H-305, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nita Lowey

Ranking Member

U.S. House Committee on Appropriations

1016 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman Frelinghuysen, and Ranking Member Lowey:

As you finalize legislation to fund federal programs past the expiration of the current continuing resolution on December 22, we again write to strongly oppose the inclusion of ideological policy riders that are harmful to women’s health.

Opponents of women’s health in the administration and in Congress have long used the budget and appropriations process to undermine women’s access to comprehensive reproductive care, including access to safe and legal abortion. We continue to strongly oppose policy riders that deny insurance coverage of abortion for women enrolled in Medicaid, women who work for the federal government, women who live in the District of Columbia, and others as well as riders that embolden health care entities to refuse to comply with laws that ensure women’s access to abortion services.

A number of new anti-women’s health policy riders were included in individual FY 2018 appropriations bills as they moved through the House Appropriations Committee. We oppose the poison-pill riders we have seen in this year’s House bills, described below, and any additional policy riders that would harm women’s and LGBTQ people’s health.

  • Sweeping new religious refusal language allowing employers, insurers, and health care providers to deny others access to abortion. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill includes language, taken from the Conscience Protection Act (S.301/H.R.644), legislation that would threaten patient safety by allowing health care entities to refuse to “facilitate,” “make arrangements for,” or “otherwise participate in” abortions even where a woman’s health is in danger. This provision would allow hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to determine a patient’s care based on the provider’s religious beliefs, not based on what is best for the patient’s health and circumstances. This could result in hospitals turning away women in serious emergency situations, and refusing to provide even information that would allow women to make an informed decision and seek treatment elsewhere. The provision would also allow bosses to interfere with women’s and LGBTQ people’s health insurance coverage for abortion, depriving women of the comprehensive coverage that enables them to make personal medical decisions.
  • A rider blocking patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers. The House LHHS bill includes a provision intended to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers. This rider would prevent Planned Parenthood from participating in any government-funded health care programs, including Medicaid, the Title X Family Planning Program, HIV prevention grants, maternal and child health programs, and evidence-based sex education programs and would have a devastating impact on access tobasic health care services for women, men, and young people, including LGBTQ people, around the country.
  • A provision to block ongoing and potentially life-saving research involving fetal The House LHHS bill includes a new rider that would block federal funding for research using human fetal tissue if such tissue is obtained after an abortion. Given that every person in this country has benefited from research involving fetal tissue, this unnecessary restriction would undermine research that has led to a number of medical advancements and new preventive and therapeutic interventions for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including neurological disorders cancer, AIDS, and fetal abnormalities.
  • A provision that extends existing harmful restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion by banning all multi-state plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from including such coverage. The House Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) bill includes a provision that would take away existing health insurance coverage, thereby further restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion.
  • Language blocking the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDAA), a law passed unanimously by the Council of the District of The House FSGG bill includes a provision that would stop implementation of RHNDAA, a local law that protects employees who work in DC from workplace discrimination based on the employees’ personal reproductive health care decisions, like using in-vitro fertilization or birth control.
  • Language that restricts access to abortion for women in S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. The House Homeland Security appropriations bill includes a ban on coverage and provision of abortion services for individuals in ICE custody except in cases of rape, incest, and a very narrow definition of life endangerment. Furthermore, the language includes a harmful refusal provision that would allow any ICE employee to refuse “to perform or facilitate in any way” any abortion.
  • Reinstatement of the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, a provision that greatly undermines access to health care services around the world. The House State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill includes the expanded global gag rule, which denies foreign organizations U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds.
  • Prohibition on S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The House SFOPs bill would cut off funding for UNFPA’s life-saving maternal and reproductive health services to the poorest communities in more than 150 countries, including those facing humanitarian crises and conflict.

Additionally, we strongly oppose the draconian and ideologically driven funding cuts proposed in bills passed by the House Appropriations Committee. In particular, we urge you to reject cuts to the Title X Family Planning Program, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and international family planning and reproductive health – programs that are proven to improve health outcomes for women and LGBTQ people at home and abroad.

As you and your colleagues make critical decisions about FY 2018 funding bills, we urge you to protect women’s health by ensuring that these and any other ideological policy riders are excluded and that funding is protected for programs that improve health outcomes for women, men, and young people, including LGBTQ people.


Advocates for Youth

AIDS Action Baltimore

AIDS Alabama

AIDS Foundation of Chicago

AIDS United

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Civil Liberties Union

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American Humanist Association

American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Amnesty International USA

Anti-Defamation League

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals


Bailey House, Inc.

Better World Campaign

Black Women’s Health Imperative

Cascade AIDS Project

Catholics for Choice

Center for American Progress

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Center for Reproductive Rights

DC Fights Back!!

Equality California

Equality North Carolina

Feminist Majority Friends of UNFPA


Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.

Hispanic Health Network

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Watch


Ibis Reproductive Health

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda

International Planned Parenthood Federation

International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR)

International Women’s Convocation

International Women’s Health Coalition

International Youth Alliance for Family Planning


Jewish Women International

Keep Birth Control Copay Free Campaign

Latino Commission on AIDS

Marie Stopes International

Medical Students for Choice

NARAL Pro-Choice America

National Abortion Federation

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Council of Jewish Women

National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

National Female Condom Coalition

National Health Law Program

National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH)

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Network of Abortion Funds

National Organization for Women

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Women’s Health Network

National Women’s Law Center


Palladium International

People For the American Way

Physicians for Reproductive Health

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Population Connection Action Fund

Population Council

Population Institute

Presbyterian AIDS Networks (PAN), PHEWA, Presbyterian Church USA

Project Inform

Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need

Religious Institute

Secular Coalition for America

Sierra Club

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

The Last Mile Consulting

Treatment Action Group

Union for Reform Judaism

Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation

URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity

Voices for Progress

Women’s Information Network (WIN)

Women’s Refugee Commission

Woodhull Freedom Foundation

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