5 pro-life riders Southern Baptists should know about

February 4, 2021

The ERLC stands by our pro-life convictions in every sphere of cultural engagement. This includes our witness and advocacy to the federal government on issues Christians care about. One of our threshold questions for our team before supporting any piece of legislation is whether the bill protects and honors the value of every human life.

Each year, Congress must pass twelve appropriations bills that fund the federal government. These bills are “must pass” pieces of legislation in that they are needed to keep the government funded and operating. Since Roe v. Wade, Congress has added pro-life “riders” to the appropriations bill, which modify with common sense limits the way appropriated funds can be spent. The riders must be reattached to appropriations bills each year, because they aren’t permanent policy. 

The Hyde Amendment is one of the most important pro-life riders; it prevents federal funds from being used to pay for an abortion. To learn more about the Hyde Amendment and why it’s so important, see our other articles on the history of the Hyde Amendment, why we still need it, and how it is currently vulnerable

Though there are many, here are five additional pro-life riders Southern Baptists should know about:

1. Weldon Amendment

The Weldon Amendment protects the consciences of health care workers by prohibiting federal funds from being used to discriminate on the basis of a health care entity’s refusal to provide, pay for, or refer women for abortion. This Amendment has passed every Congress since its introduction in 2004 and has enjoyed wide bipartisan support. 

However, under the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused to enforce the Weldon Amendment and instead allowed violations of the law to go unrestrained. To that end, the Conscience Protection Act is sorely needed to codify the Weldon Amendment so enforcement of this important conscience protection is consistent across presidential administrations. 

To learn more about the Weldon Amendment and the Conscience Protection Act, listen to this Capitol Conversation’s episode, read this article on its importance, and learn from our policy brief

2. Dornan Amendment 

The Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate all funds (both federal and local) for the District of Columbia. The Dornan Amendment prevents all federal and local DC funds from being used to pay for an abortion. This amendment extends the type of protections afforded by the Hyde Amendment to the District of Columbia.

However, the Dornan Amendment was weakened last year as the language only prohibits federal funds from paying for an abortion. The ERLC rejects any attempt to weaken this amendment and will continue to advocate against any government funding of abortions. Learn about our advocacy in support of the Dornan Amendment here

3. Helms Amendment

The Helms Amendment is the oldest pro-life rider. First proposed in 1973, it states that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” Congress clarified in 1990 that funds could support foreign family planning organizations that included abortions in their overview of all options as long as they comply with the laws of their host country. 

Like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment is also being threatened. On July 29th, the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act of 2020 was introduced to repeal the Helms Amendment. You can read our one-pager opposing the bill here.

4. Siljander Amendment

Many organizations that perform abortions both receive federal funding and lobby the government for support. While the Hyde Amendment prevents those organizations from using the funds to perform abortions, the Siljander Amendment prevents them from using federal funds to lobby for abortion internationally. In addition, the Siljander Amendment prohibits the federal government, in its foreign policy, from lobbying for or against abortion, effectively requiring the American government to be neutral on abortion.

When the Siljander Amendment was introduced in 1981, it only prohibited lobbying for abortions. Congress has since modified the language to also prohibit lobbying against abortions. You can learn more about the Siljander Amendment and its relation to the Mexico City policy here

5. Kemp-Kasten Amendment

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment prevents U.S. funds from being being given to “any organization or program which, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” 

The president, after citing evidence that an organization supports forced sterilization or coerced abortion, may prevent funding to a specific organization. This rider has been used by pro-life administrations to withhold funds from the United Nations Population Fund as the Fund has supported China’s population control policies. Presidents who support abortion have refused to invoke this amendment. Pushing back against China’s draconian population control policies is needed now more than ever, as multiple news sources and researches have shown that China is forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women and coercing them into having abortions. 

Congress regularly passes many other pro-life riders that, like the Helms, Siljander, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments, are designed to curb the global influence of the abortion lobby. You can read more about them in this ERLC article. 

The Bible makes clear that all people are worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, ability, or stage of development. The ERLC will continue to advocate for these pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life. 

ERLC public policy and law Intern Julia Stamper contributed to this article. 

Photo Attribution:

Alex Wong / Getty Staff