Just days after their big win in the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-abortionists and the radical right—who are often one and the same—are gearing up for their annual fight to ban federal Medicaid funding for abortion.

Their vehicle: The $242 billion bill funding the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services for the federal fiscal year 2023, which starts October 1. It omits the ban, so far.

The measure also includes a $100 million increase in money for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, plus proposals—in the House Appropriations Committee report on the measure to levy higher fines on lawbreakers and to extend OSHA coverage to all farms and farmworkers.

The OSHA hike drew a big cheer from the labor-backed National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). Other Labor Department enforcement agencies, notably the Wage and Hour Division, which pursues corporate wage theft from workers, would get nice hikes, too.

But Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill, led by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are again pandering to their “social issue” constituency by demanding Congress restore the Hyde Amendment, the 46-year-old ban on federal Medicaid funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.

In approving the money bill and sending it to the House floor on June 30, the House Appropriations Committee again deleted the Hyde Amendment.

Rubio wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., co-signed by 45 other Republicans, threatening to scuttle the bill unless Hyde goes back into it. The threat is viable in the 50-50 Senate, where a united Republican block can successfully vote to even prevent debate on anything.

That means the measure may not make its way through the congressional meatgrinder,

Cole and his colleagues promised a House floor fight on Hyde.

“Most disappointing, this bill once again removes amendments that rightly prevent taxpayer-funded on-demand abortions and protect healthcare professionals from participating in abortions if they have a moral objection. If Democrats are serious about advancing full-year appropriations to the president’s desk, these longstanding provisions must be restored,” said Cole, the top Republican on the Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee, which wrote the measure headed for the House floor.

And even though the radical right won an enormous victory with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision eliminating the 49-year-old constitutional right to abortion, backers of women’s rights won’t back down.

“You deserve access to health care–including abortion–without barriers or political interference. You deserve the right to control your own body no matter where you live or how much money you make,” Planned Parenthood asserts.

“Planned Parenthood will work to get patients to care and care to patients. Planned Parenthood supporters and abortion rights advocates are doubling down, fighting for everyone to have the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.”

“To the millions of people whose rights have been stolen overnight due to the cruelty and callousness of this extreme Supreme Court, know that this fight is not over,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., a member of “The Squad” of outspoken progressive lawmakers of color.

“The Senate must abolish the filibuster and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act into law. We must expand the court to restore its integrity. I won’t stop fighting for policies and budgets that affirm abortion care as the fundamental human right that it is,” added Pressley.

“The Hyde Amendment is a back-end attempt to outlaw abortion that disproportionately denies the right of choice to low-income women and women of color,” Squad member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a debate over Hyde two years ago. “It is critical that we put an end to this inhumane policy now.”

Besides eliminating the Hyde Amendment, the money bill retains Title X funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. And Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., inserted an amendment telling HHS to use $5 million of its secretary’s discretionary dollars to enhance security and access to health clinics, workers, and patients.

For years, anti-abortion zealots have deluged and threatened (or worse) the clinics, harassed patients, and occasionally murdered doctors.

OSHA fared better when the House Appropriations panel approved the money bill on June 30. The panel helps dole out federal dollars for all government programs, except mandatory ones like Social Security and Medicare.

The $242 billion funding bill includes $712 million for OSHA, $100 million more than this year and $11 million more than Democratic President Joe Biden sought, $313 million for DOL’s Wage and Hour Division—which pursues wage theft by bosses, among other violations—and $319 million for the NLRB, $45 million more than the amount the board’s been stuck with for almost a decade.

The Wage and Hour boost is almost 20% and the total is $5 million more than Biden sought. Overall, DOL would get $15 billion in the new fiscal year.

Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the House’s money bill “makes transformative investments that help working families with high costs of living, create American jobs, support workers, and strengthen our health care infrastructure. This bill touches people at every stage of their lives, and the massive funding increase will create a society that provides people with the help they so desperately need.”

The labor-backed National Council on Occupational Safety and Health strongly supported the House measure’s $100 million increase in OSHA funding.

“We simply cannot afford to cut corners on enforcement, outreach, and education programs, in addition to other measures that keep workers safe–especially not when workers are facing even greater threats to our health and well-being,” NACOSH leaders wrote DeLauro.

“When Covid-19 (the coronavirus) tore through our workplaces in 2020, OSHA’s response was totally inadequate,” NACOSH co-chair Jessica Martinez and two colleagues added. “Weak guidance, not enough inspections, no answers to repeated complaints from workers. We can’t let that happen again.” The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the largest workplace death toll of any single disease or event in U.S. history.

At the end of 2021, she told DeLauro, federal OSHA had just 750 safety inspectors to cover approximately half of the states, “the lowest number” of inspectors “in the agency’s 51-year history.” The other half have their own state OSHAs, which must follow federal standards. Some don’t.

“It makes no sense to disarm the agency charged with protecting workers at a time when there are growing threats to our safety and health,” notably the ongoing and evolving pandemic, added Martinez, NACOSH co-Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, and Connecticut affiliate Executive Director Mike Fitts.

“Heat exposure will become more dangerous in years to come, as climate change leads to more severe weather events. And workers are still dying every year from hazards we know how to prevent, like trench collapses and falls from a height,” the three added.

The committee’s Democrats not only want more money for OSHA to hire more inspectors and conduct more probes, but they also want higher fines, too. Current maximum fines “are woefully inadequate” to deter unsafe employers, their panel report on the measure says.

OSHA should “adopt policies that encourage the use of maximum penalties or a penalty multiplier for serious violations in large businesses,” notably meatpackers, the committee said. It noted the Republican Trump regime issued only two small fines against meatpackers for coronavirus safety rule violations.

The panel voted—again—to bring small farms under OSHA’s jurisdiction. Racism had omitted them.

“Agriculture is among the most dangerous industries in the United States,” it explained. But OSHA can’t even probe deaths and serious injuries on farms, much less complaints about unsafe work—such as excessive heat exposure. It can’t even perform the Republicans’ favorite OSHA aid, so-called “compliance assistance.”

The ban on OSHA inspecting farms traces back to similar bans in other New Deal-era farm legislation, the panel’s report explains. Those bans “were included as compromises to secure the votes of Southern lawmakers who opposed expanding labor rights for black farmworkers and sharecroppers. This… continues to have a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and should not be included. All farmworkers deserve to be protected by the OSHA law, regardless of the size of their employer.”


Original story HERE.