Protecting Family Values

I believe my values are shared with most Mississippians. As a Southern Baptist, I am a strong supporter of Christian family values.  I do not support gay marriage and believe in the traditional definition of marriage. 

In my first term in Congress, I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Despite being signed into law on September 21, 1996, President Obama’s instructed the U.S. Department of Justice not to defend DOMA in the courts.  I was deeply troubled by the President's decision. Despite this decision, DOMA will remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or the Supreme Court strikes it down. 
 
Unelected judges in some states have taken it upon themselves to alter the legal definition of marriage to mean something other than a union between one man and one woman.  It is important that those states do not impose their laws on Mississippi and other states that have rejected attempts to redefine marriage.

ICYMI: Wicker Commended With ‘Friend of Adoption’ Award

National Council for Adoption Recognizes Wicker for Pro-Family Efforts

November 8, 2021

WASHINGTON -U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., received the Friend of Adoption Award from the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) on Tuesday, November 2. The award recognized Wicker for his longstanding advocacy for adoptions and support of adoptive families.

“I am honored to be recognized by the National Council for Adoption,” Wicker said. “I will continue working to lower barriers to adoption and help more children find loving families. Every child deserves to grow up in a stable and caring home.”

Nonprofit leaders commended Wicker for his work on behalf of the adoption community, citing his media appearances, floor speeches, and congressional correspondence surrounding the issue.

“Throughout his many years in Congress, Senator Wicker has been a consistently courageous voice in calling for accountability from policy and decision-makers to address the significant decline in intercountry adoption, which has left thousands of children around the world waiting for a family,” said Kristen Hamilton, NCFA Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications. “Always willing to hear from concerned constituents and the larger adoption community, Senator Wicker has demonstrated strong leadership as an adoption advocate and we are honored to recognize his impact with the Friend of Adoption award this year.”

In his acceptance speech, Wicker pressed for reform in American adoption policy to facilitate more adoptions from across the world and at home. There is an urgent need for adoption in both cases. The State Department reports that intercountry adoptions have plummeted by 82 percent since 2004. Nearly 424,000 children, meanwhile, live in foster care across the country.

The senator also affirmed the duty of Americans to protect young people and find them loving homes. The senator repeated his commitment to easing red tape and the adoption process for families who want to take in a child in need.

For more information on NCFA, click here. To read Senator Wicker’s most recent op-ed championing intercountry adoption, click here.

Wicker Hammers President Biden Over Failed Agenda

“The American People Sent a Strong Message of Disapproval to the Biden Administration”

November 5, 2021

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., took to the Senate floor Thursday to respond to the recent failures of the Biden Administration. Senator Wicker spoke to America’s slow economic recovery, sky-high inflation, and backlash from voters in this week’s elections across the country. Wicker also took the president to task for his plans to mandate the coronavirus vaccine, which he described as one of the “most serious and dangerous policies of this Administration.”

See the Senator’s full remarks as delivered below.

When we look at the news this morning, when we saw the evening news last night, when we tuned in to the cable channels, when we hear the radio, we see the astounding news of the voices of the voters on Tuesday of this week.

Not just in Virginia, and not just in New Jersey, but in the state of New York and throughout the Midwest, and on over to the West Coast.

The American people sent a strong message of disapproval to the Biden Administration this week, and I hope our Democratic friends and the Biden Administration will heed the message of the voters I see today.

I normally don't bring the New York Times to the floor and quote it with approval, but it says here in the New York Times this morning: “Bruised at polls, Democrats look at their missteps.”

I hope that's true.

I hope our Democratic colleagues and our friends in the Biden Administration are looking at their missteps, because they are many and they have been harmful.

The Washington Post this morning, November fourth: “A sharp turn looms in Virginia.”

Yes, Virginia went from the three constitutional statewide offices, all being held by Democrats, to a Republican sweep, not only there, but in the state General Assembly.

But then I see this other headline. Top of the page: “Democrats race ahead on fiscal proposals.”

Presumably, our Democrat friends are not hearing the message that the American people in state after state after state sent Tuesday of this week.

Even vastly underfunded GOP candidates like the candidate for governor in New Jersey came within a hair's breadth of being elected.

Vastly underfunded GOP candidates for legislative positions actually prevailed over candidates with millions and millions of dollars on the Democratic side.

The American people have sent this Administration and this Democratic majority in the House and this tiny Democratic majority in the Senate a very unmistakable message: they are rejecting the malaise that we are under.

The Biden Administration must understand that this election was the direct result of the president's failed agenda by all measures.

Our economy should be roaring by now.

We're coming out of the pandemic—we should be back to the good news of February 2020, the month before the pandemic hit—[where] the Trump and Republican tax cuts were in place.

The unemployment rate was an astoundingly low 3.6%: something that we were told in our economics classes was impossible in the United States of America.

When I was taking ‘kiddie economics,’ they said it couldn't go below 4%.

The unemployment rate in February of 2020 was 3.6%. Employment was up among women. Employment was up among minorities. Employment was up among veterans.

Our economy was roaring, and then the pandemic came and we acted in a bipartisan way.

But we are coming out of the pandemic now, and the Administration acts as if we need a huge dose of $4 trillion, $5 trillion worth of socialism.

The pandemic is in full retreat, and from the beginning of the Administration this year, the Biden Administration blew it on day one.

The president canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, killing thousands of jobs.

And almost in the same breath, he told the Russians to go ahead with their pipeline.

I mean, can Americans even grasp that?

I think they sent a message Tuesday about that sort of thing.

With the stroke of a pen, the president declared war on American energy.

The result has been that fuel has become scarce.

And of course, because of its scarcity, it's become more expensive after four years of relief under the last Administration.

U.S. energy producers are once again looking down the barrel of a hostile EPA.

This is a self-inflicted energy crisis.

Coal and nuclear plants are shutting down as reliable natural resources are taken off the table, replaced by this Administration's fantasy dream of green-only energy.

Taxpayers are being told to stomach higher gas prices, while at the same time being asked to pay billions of dollars to subsidize wind, solar, and electric vehicles.

There's a place for that.

But they're all three unreliable and predictably, gas prices have soared.

Instead of reevaluating his own policies, it seems that the president is attempting to double down on them, and he's even gone to questionable governments across the sea in the Middle East, asking them to produce more oil because we won't do that in the United States.

It makes no sense at all.

Perhaps this Administration should listen to the election results, and hear the voices of the people from Tuesday.

But the economic damage is hardly limited to energy.

Inflation spurred on by the Administration's reckless spending is burning a hole in the wallets of Americans, and we simply can't get around it.

The consumer price index shows that prices are going up 5.4% over the last twelve months.

I will tell you, Madam President: I was speaking to a manufacturer from my home state of Mississippi just yesterday, and he said that figure is understated quite a bit.

He said his costs have gone up around 20% in being able to manufacture goods for the American people, and hire Americans, and hire Mississippians.

Meanwhile, the gears of our economy are slowing down, causing fears of stagflation, something we've not seen since the 1970s.

And I do want to agree with my friend from Wyoming about the gentleman from Illinois who pointed out the Climate Corps.

This manufacturer in Mississippi said he's got 2,000 positions that need to be filled.

Perhaps some of these people that the senator from Illinois would like to employ in the Climate Corps can come to manufacturers like ours in Mississippi and take a good-paying job, manufacturing things for Americans that we can sell in our country and all around the world.

GDP growth just slowed to 2%.

Employers still cannot find enough workers, just like the manufacturer from Mississippi, told me yesterday.

Our supply chain is jammed up with endless delays, causing concern.

But to me, one of the most serious and dangerous policies of this Administration is the Biden Administration's unprecedented and unconstitutional vaccine mandate on two-thirds of the private-sector workforce.

We're being told that every employer [with] over 100 employees must comply with a Washington-mandated and unconstitutional vaccine mandate.

This this is exactly what the president said eleven months ago.

He didn't want to do it.

Joe Biden was asked in December of 2020: should vaccines be mandated?

And he said, and I quote: “No, I don't think they should be mandatory.

The president was right when he said that to the press, and he's 180 degrees wrong today and taking his cues from the most radical advisers that he has.

And as a result, the American people on Tuesday have said enough now.

All right. I know a little about American workers. I know a little about American servicemen and women—I was one.

We have been raised in a free country, in a free land, and we are not accustomed to being told by Washington, D.C., by the chief executive of the United States of America, what we must put in our bodies.

I can tell you, this is a looming economic crisis for this country.

Millions and millions of hardworking American taxpayers are going to be forced to leave their jobs because they will refuse as free Americans to be told that they must take a vaccine that they do not feel good about.

Madam President, the chief executive of our land has grossly miscalculated the American people on this issue, and a looming economic crisis because of a lack of workers and mass layoffs and mass firings is about to occur.

The Biden Administration should pause and do what the New York Times said this morning.

And as they're examining their bruises, look at their missteps because they are many and they are hurting the American economy.

I would urge the Biden Administration to let these tax cuts stay in place, to let these soft touch regulations stay in place, and to pause and listen to the clear voices of the American people as they voted in strong numbers this past Tuesday.

I yield the floor.

Watch the Senator’s full remarks here.

Wicker, Hyde-Smith Work to Block Draft of Women

Miss. Senators Oppose Compelling Women to Register for the Draft

November 5, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., this week threw their support behind a measure to keep women from being compelled to register for the draft.

The Senators signed onto an amendment to the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would remove a provision from HR.4350 requiring women between the ages of 18 and 25 to register for the Selective Service System.

“I applaud the women who volunteer to serve in the military and who sacrifice every day for our country’s freedom, but to compel their service by law is wrong,” Wicker said. “I along with millions of other Americans cannot support the idea that our daughters and granddaughters would be forced to fight in our next military conflict against their will.”

“I have great admiration for the women who serve in our Armed Forces, and every opportunity to serve should be available to women. I do not, however, see any compelling reason to expand the Selective Service System,” Hyde-Smith said.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced the amendment, which is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan.

In July, Wicker was one of five members of the Senate Armed Services Committee senators who opposed a provision expanding the draft to include women.

Wicker, Hyde-Smith Defend Parents’ Right to Guide Education of Their Children

Miss. Senators Cosponsor Resolution Condemning Biden Administration Attempts to Restrict Parental Involvement in Schools

October 29, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., this week cosponsored a resolution supporting parents’ rights to be fully and actively involved in the education of their children. The resolution (S.Res.431) also condemns recent actions by the Biden Administration to weaponize the Justice Department to intimidate and silence parents who speak out to protect their children from harmful curricula.

“Parents have a basic right to shape the education of their children,” Wicker said. “Recent attempts by the Biden Administration to silence parents who disagree with the divisive ideas being taught in many American schools should be met with a forceful rebuke. I am glad to join so many in the Senate to stand for parents, students, and the future of our education system.”

“Parents should be encouraged to be involved in their children’s education, not intimidated into silence by school boards, administrators or, worse, an overbearing federal government. President Biden’s use of the Department of Justice to violate the free speech rights of parents is completely unacceptable,” Hyde-Smith said. “Our resolution condemns those actions and fully supports parental rights to be an active part in their children’s schooling.”

While the resolution encourages schools and parents to engage in constructive and open dialogue regarding educational policies, the measure also demands Attorney General Merrick Garland rescind his Oct. 4, 2021, memorandum that “inappropriately directs Federal law enforcement resources to be used against parents advocating on behalf of their children against harmful school policies, curricula, and instructional materials.”

U.S. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., introduced the resolution with 30 cosponsors, including Senators John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Boozman, R-Ark., Mike Braun, R-Ind., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Josh Hawley, R-Mo., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., John Kennedy, R-La., James Lankford, R-Okla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., James Risch, R-Idaho, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.

Read the full text of S.Res.431 here.

Wicker, Hyde-Smith Back Bill to Protect U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Measure Would Block Biden Plan to Reopen U.S. Consulate for the Palestinians

October 27, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., have joined in introducing legislation to protect the placement of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and to block Biden administration plans to establish a separate U.S. Consulate for the Palestinians.

The Mississippi lawmakers are original cosponsors of the Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act of 2021 (S.3063). The bill would stop efforts by the Biden administration to subvert the full and faithful implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 by reopening separate consulate services for the Palestinians.

“Jerusalem is the capital and cultural center of the State of Israel, and U.S. policy should reflect that fact,” Wicker said. “President Trump was right to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and I will continue to oppose any effort that would undermine U.S. diplomacy in Israel.”

“The United States must fulfill its legal and moral commitments to the Israeli people, which includes maintaining our embassy, including all diplomatic missions, in Jerusalem.  The Biden administration must not stray from the law as it reaches out to the leadership of the Palestinians, which is closely tied to Iran and terrorist organizations” Hyde-Smith said.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is the law that recognized an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and directed the location of the U.S. Embassy there by May 31, 1999. The U.S. Embassy was only relocated to Jerusalem in 2018 after former President Donald Trump acted to fully implement the 1995 law.

Prior to implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, a U.S. consulate for the Palestinians operated completely outside of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel’s Chief of Mission authority. President Trump placed those duties under the purview of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Introduced by U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), S.3063 would prohibit the use of federal funding “for the operation of a United States consulate or diplomatic facility in Jerusalem unless such consulate or diplomatic facility is under the supervision of the United States Ambassador to Israel.”

Wicker, Colleagues to President Biden: Stop the Unconstitutional Vaccine Mandates

Senators Warn Mandates Will Force Americans Out of Work Amid Nationwide Labor Shortages

October 22, 2021

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., joined a letter led by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, criticizing President Joseph R. Biden for implementing federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The senators argued the mandates, which lack precedent, threaten the jobs and livelihoods of millions of hardworking Americans without allowing for reasonable public input.

“The Executive Branch does not have the constitutional authority to take these invasive actions and your mandates will threaten the livelihoods, earned benefits, and financial health of untold numbers of hardworking Americans and their families. We strongly urge you to change course,” the senators wrote.

Also joining the letter were Senators Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Steve Daines, R-Mont., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

See the full letter text below.

Dear Mr. President,

We write to express our significant concerns regarding your expansive vaccine mandates on hardworking Americans. As you know, Executive Order 14042 requires employees of federal contractors and subcontractors to be vaccinated or face termination, and the forthcoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule forces private employers of over 100 employees to require their workers be vaccinated or tested weekly. The Executive Branch does not have the constitutional authority to take these invasive actions and your mandates will threaten the livelihoods, earned benefits, and financial health of untold numbers of hardworking Americans and their families. We strongly urge you to change course.

While the Supreme Court has upheld the ability of states to mandate vaccines during a pandemic, there is no precedent for the federal government to mandate vaccines for contractors, private employers, or individual Americans. Vaccines are important in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, however, the decision on whether or not to get vaccinated is a personal choice and should not be unilaterally decided by the President. These unconstitutional actions are not only unprecedented, but they are also a vast federal overreach into individual liberties, personal health decisions, and private enterprise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for individuals, families, and businesses. The resulting economic uncertainty from various restrictive public health orders in 2020 could have destroyed the American economy, but Congress stepped in on a broad, bipartisan basis, providing trillions to support maintaining the employees of American businesses through actions like the Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Tax Credits, and the Payroll Support Program for airline workers, among many others. This support saved the jobs of millions of hardworking Americans.  Now, many of the direct beneficiaries of that federal aid may lose their jobs over your unlawful federal vaccine mandates at the same time we are trying to get workers off the sidelines and back into the workforce.

Firing hardworking Americans who choose not to get vaccinated not only undermines the significant work Congress and the Trump Administration did to save millions of jobs, it also exacerbates the workforce shortages employers are already facing.  The disappointing economic data released by your own Administration outlines the serious nature of this issue. The demand for workers is strong, but there are simply not enough workers to fill positions.  Forcing employers to terminate loyal employees who are willing to work when businesses are facing significant challenges in hiring—and after Congress has invested trillions to save their jobs—is nonsensical.

Your actions have put businesses and hardworking Americans in an unnecessary bind. Both your Executive Order and the OSHA rule disregard public input and instead use coercion to force implementation of the vaccine mandate. In particular, Executive Order 14402 side steps the public rulemaking process required under the Administrative Procedures Act in favor of using agency guidance. Similarly, OSHA is releasing an Emergency Temporary Standard, which bypasses the public process. Both mandates are an extreme abuse of power, and those who are most negatively impacted have not even been afforded an opportunity to provide comment.

Beyond sidestepping public input, the mandate on contractors does not include an option for testing in lieu of a vaccine, making it particularly onerous and discriminatory. Instead, businesses who receive federal contracts will be required to submit to an even higher standard than OSHA is expected to require for other private sector employers. In addition, neither mandate considers natural immunity.

We all want to put this pandemic behind us for the benefit of our health, our families, and our economy, but we cannot lose sight of the massive, negative impacts that your mandates will have on hardworking Americans and their families. We urge you to change course for the sake of hardworking Americans and their families.

Wicker Joins Fight to Protect Coach Fired for Praying At School

Miss. Senator Petitions U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Religious Liberty

October 20, 2021

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., joined an amicus brief led by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Representative Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., in support of Coach Joe Kennedy in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The brief asks the Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower court’s decision that allowed the coach to be fired for silently kneeling and praying after school football games he coached.

“Religious freedom is a principle enshrined in our country’s Bill of Rights,” Wicker said. “It is regrettable to see religious freedom ignored and a devout coach fired for practicing his sincerely-held beliefs. The Supreme Court should immediately reverse this decision and stand in defense of one of America’s most sacred traditions.”

Kennedy was head coach for the Bremerton High School junior varsity football team in Washington state. After each game he coached, Kennedy would wait until his players cleared the field, then he would kneel and silently pray. Bremerton High School sent Kennedy a letter demanding he stop praying after games. Kennedy’s contract with the school was subsequently not renewed, resulting in his termination.

The former coach filed a lawsuit against the school district, which a federal district court initially dismissed. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit argued Kennedy’s prayers were not protected by the Constitution because he was praying as a public employee. In 2019, Coach Kennedy asked the Supreme Court to review the case but the Court denied review of the case, with a concurring statement by four Justices requesting more information. After the decision, the case went back to the lower courts. In March 2021, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision that Kennedy’s silent, public prayers after football games violated the Establishment Clause, and the circuit court denied an appeal for review.

Read the full amicus brief here.

Wicker, Hyde-Smith Call Out Harmful Marriage Penalties in Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill

Miss. Senators Urge Support for Strong Families, Removal of Penalties on Married Couples from Package

October 1, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., this week joined U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to urge Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to remove new tax penalties that would discourage marriage from Democrats’ current reconciliation package. The marriage penalty provisions are included the multi-trillion dollar tax and social spending legislation being written by congressional Democrats.

“Federal policy should be designed to foster strong marriages, which are the foundation of strong families and strong communities,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, despite its original rollout as part of the ‘American Families Plan,’ the current draft of the reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and makes it significantly worse.”

“We believe that marriage is a vital social good. It is misguided and unfair for the government to build bigger barriers for couples to marry,” the senators continued.          

In addition to Wicker, Hyde-Smith, Romney, the letter was signed by 32 other senators including: Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Bill Cassidy, M.D., R-La., Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., John Kennedy, R-La., James Lankford, R-Okla., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Roger Marshall, M.D., R-Kan., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., R-Kansas, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Tim Scott, R-S.C., John Thune, R-S.D., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Todd Young, R-Ind.           

Read the letter, which outlines a higher-tax scenario for married couples, here.

Wicker Challenges Biden Administration Over Research Using Aborted Infants

Members of Congress Object to Tax Dollars Funding Unethical Science

June 23, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., along with U.S. Representatives Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., and Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., led Members of Congress in sending a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra criticizing HHS’s recent decisions to discontinue the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) nonpartisan Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board (EAB) and to restore taxpayer funding for federal researchers to obtain, use, and store the body parts of aborted children.

“Americans expect their tax money to be spent strategically, but at all times ethically,” the members of Congress wrote. “We are disturbed that your recent decisions violate this public trust and call into question your commitment to transparent government.”

HHS’s decisions throw into doubt whether federal safeguards and regulations on the use of human fetal tissue will be respected under the Biden Administration.

“Eliminating the EAB removes critical oversight and increases the likelihood that federally funded extramural projects may violate governing law and standing NIH polices with impunity,” they continued. “We urge you to restore the EAB, reinstate the NIH policy governing intramural research using human fetal tissue, and help rebuild public trust in the stewardship of American tax dollars.”

Wicker’s letter reflects widespread congressional intent to hold HHS accountable, with 36 Senators and 98 Representatives signing onto the letter.

“We ask that you demonstrate your commitment to transparency by restoring the Ethics Advisory Board, reinstituting policies that permit only ethically sourced HFT, and committing to humane research that does not violate the consciences of millions of American taxpayers,” they requested.

Read the full letter here or below:

Dear Secretary Becerra: 

We write to express our dismay at the recent decisions to discontinue the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board (EAB) and to reverse the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) policy prohibiting funding for intramural research using human fetal tissue (HFT). The EAB provided critical ethical review of extramural research grant applications and its removal will assuredly reduce accountability and transparency in the use of tax dollars for ethically fraught research. In addition, the recent decision to let federal researchers obtain, use, and store for intramural research the body parts of unborn children violently killed through abortion is deeply troubling. Americans deserve better stewardship of their tax dollars than research that exploits the remains of aborted infants. 

The 2019 restrictions on HFT were instituted because of glaring abuses that came to light.  For example, a careful review of an FDA contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) to procure “fresh human fetal tissue” for transplantation into mice raised serious doubts about whether federal standards were being met, resulting in HHS’s decision to cancel the contract.   Further investigations and disclosures led HHS to discontinue intramural research projects that exploited the remains of unborn children and to convene the statutorily-defined Ethics Advisory Board to provide oversight and accountability for extramural HFT projects. 

Recently published FOIA documents have brought to light sickening details of the FDA’s dealings with ABR before 2018, in which FDA employees routinely placed orders for eyeballs, livers, skin, brains, skulls, and sometimes fully-intact bodies of infants aborted in the second trimester. According to email and court records, ABR received up to $2,000 for whole infant bodies and was paid $12,000 for a series of shipments of harvested organs that were used to humanize mice in lab experiments. More recently, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) revealed that researchers grafted the scalps of aborted babies onto lab rats as part of research funded by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 

These revelations raise numerous questions about the safeguards the federal government has in place to protect taxpayer dollars from being used for unethical or illegal research purposes.  Some of the concerns raised last year by the Ethics Advisory Board found substantial failings in extramural HFT proposals related to ensuring proper consent, adherence to NIH policy, questions of financial gain from the exchange of fetal tissue, and lack of scientific justification for using HFT over alternative tissue sources.  In fact, the Board voted to recommend that the Secretary withhold funds for 13 of 14 proposals on account of serious ethical concerns. 

Given these concerns, it is absolutely vital that NIH maintain adequate oversight of federally funded HFT projects. Eliminating the EAB removes critical oversight and increases the likelihood that federally funded extramural projects may violate governing law and standing NIH polices with impunity. We urge you to restore the EAB, reinstate the NIH policy governing intramural research using human fetal tissue, and help rebuild public trust in the stewardship of American tax dollars. We also request that you confirm to us whether or not federally prohibited abortion procedures or changes in procedures were employed in the procuring of human fetal tissue for use in research funded by NIAID grants.

In addition, we urge you to embrace more avenues for research that employ ethical, non-fetal alternatives. Adult stem cells, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and umbilical cord blood cells have been used to create life-saving treatments for multiple diseases and conditions.   Previous projects, including a $20 million funding opportunity in 2018 to move toward noncontroversial alternatives, have been well received and accepted by a broad majority of scientists. We request an audit of how these 2018 funds were distributed as well as information on your Department’s future plans to invest in ethical alternatives to human fetal tissue.

Americans expect their tax money to be spent strategically, but at all times ethically.  We are disturbed that your recent decisions violate this public trust and call into question your commitment to transparent government. We ask that you demonstrate your commitment to transparency by restoring the Ethics Advisory Board, reinstituting policies that permit only ethically sourced HFT, and committing to humane research that does not violate the consciences of millions of American taxpayers.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your expeditious response.

Wicker, Hyde-Smith Introduce Bill to Protect Faith-Based Foster Care Providers

March 11, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., this week joined their colleagues in introducing the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act to protect child welfare providers from being discriminated against for acting in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs.

“Faith-based adoption and foster care providers do incredible work finding loving homes for our nation’s orphans,” Wicker said. “It is deeply disturbing that certain states are seeking to drive these providers out of the marketplace because of their religious and moral beliefs, leaving children to pay the price. This legislation would protect federally-funded child welfare providers from discrimination based on their beliefs, allowing them to continue serving children in need.”

“Our nation is entering into a precarious time when religious liberties can be so easily trampled,” Hyde-Smith said.  “This reasonable legislation would protect child welfare providers, who hold fast to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  States that choose to discriminate against these workers would in turn be choosing to hurt overall services for all caregivers, children, and families.”  

This legislation would prohibit federal, state, and local government agencies that receive federal adoption assistance funding from discriminating against child welfare service providers based on the providers’ unwillingness to take action contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. This would include all agencies that receive funding under Part B (Child and Family Services) or Part E (Federal Payments for Foster Care, Prevention, and Permanency) of Title IV of the Social Security Act.

Wicker and Hyde-Smith joined Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., in introducing the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, along with Senators Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Bill Cassidy, R-La., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., John Kennedy, R-La., James Lankford, R-Okla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, James Risch, R-Idaho, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Supporting organizations include the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heritage Action, and the Family Research Council.

“Far too many children are waiting, right now, either for adoption or foster families. Our government must not stand in the way of those seeking to care for them. It is difficult to imagine a more important goal for child welfare policy than the goal of seeing vulnerable children who need a loving home be united with families committed to caring for them. Protecting the rights of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies only ensures that more children will have access to the love and support they so desperately need. This is precisely what the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would do.” said Russell Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

U.S. Representative Mike Kelly, R-Penn., introduced companion legislation in the House.