An Anti-Choice Wishlist for the New Congress

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An Anti-Choice Wishlist for the New Congress

Robin Marty

Now that the anti-choice activists have a majority, they want payback, and their wishlist is very, very long.

The anti-choice movement spent a great deal of time and money in campaigning for Republican candidates that would flip the leadership of the House from Democrat to Republican control in 2011.  Focusing primarily on the weakest candidates, anti-abortion Democrats running in conservative districts, groups like National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony list managed to create a new army of Republicans who owe their seats to the funding and backing of anti-choice activists.

Now those activists want their payback.

Via Lifenews, the anti-choice Republican groups have created a wishlist of the “top priorities” for congress once the new members are sworn in.  For the most part, the list is unsurprising — it is legislation that they have been pushing for nationally for years, and advocating for and often passing on a state by state basis.

At the top of the list is the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Introduced in July by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, the Act prohibits:

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(1) the expenditure of funds authorized or appropriated by federal law or funds in any trust fund to which funds are authorized or appropriated by federal law for any abortion or for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion;
(2) any tax benefits for amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or for a health benefits plan (including premium assistance) that includes coverage of abortion; and
(3) the inclusion of abortion in any health care service furnished by a federal health care facility or by any physician or other individual employed by the federal government. Exempts from such prohibitions an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest with a minor, or if the woman suffers from a physical disorder, injury, or illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the women in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself. Makes such prohibitions applicable to federal funding within the budget of the District of Columbia. Prohibits federal agencies or programs and states and local governments that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against any individual or institutional health care entity on the basis that such entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions. Designates the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to receive, and coordinate the investigation of, discrimination complaints.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act essentially makes the Hyde Amendment into a permanent rule, rather than one that must be renewed once a year in order to continue.  It also would extend the Amendment beyond medicaid to all health plans in all branches of any form of government.  And it would provide a permanent conscience clause that would allow insurers to opt out of abortion coverage even if the mother’s health were in danger, or a victim of rape or incest, as well as allow medical workers to opt out of any assistance in providing an abortion as well.

The bill essentially could be called a Hyde Amendment Plus, as it wraps together the Hyde Amendment, related to programs funded through the HHS appropriations, along with the Helms amendment, which applies to overseas programs, the Smith FEHBP amendment to stop abortion funding in federal employee health insurance programs, the Dornan amendment prohibiting abortion funding in the District of Columbia, and other policies governing programs such as the Peace Corp and federal prisons.

The beauty of the new bill is also seen in the fact that it will make these policies banning abortion funding in various situations permanent federal law instead of annual battles that pro-life advocates sometimes lose depending on who controls Congress and the White House.

Only an act of Congress to reverse the law would reinstate the abortion funding.

The new comprehensive abortion funding ban will also apply to the new national health care program President Barack Obama signed into law.

And it would codify the conscience clause known as Hyde-Weldon offering protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortions — something Smith told his fellow members of Congress is important.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is at the top of their list, and encompasses a majority of the goals that the anti-choice movement has for congress in one tight, neat little bill.  But it is by no means all that they are pushing for.  Just as they have been doing on a state by state basis through the last session, the anti-choice activists are pushing to defund the entirety of Planned Parenthood, though the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country, doing over 305,000 abortions per year (according to their last yearly report in 2008) and receives over $300 million taxpayer dollars yearly. They have been caught on tape covering up child rape and abuse and accepting money specifically targeted to abort African-American babies. In several states, the organization is undergoing audits for improper billing practices as well. This organization deserves no funding from taxpayers.

The funding that Planned Parenthood receives from the government goes to family planning, contraception, sex education, and prevention and treatment of STIs, and is carefully monitored so that none of it is used to provide abortions, as per federal law.  But, just as anti-abortion activists believe that the definition of “pregnant” can span even to before a fertilized egg implants in the womb, they also believe that if any money goes to an organization that is at all affiliated with abortion, that money is then directly funding abortions.

But defunding abortions and defunding Planned Parenthood’s preventative programs simply isn’t enough.  To truly create the gift that keeps giving, the anti-choice wishlist includes a final item: defunding embryonic stem cell research.

Plenty of research has yielded very positive results from using adult stem cells to treat of range of diseases and conditions while embryonic stem cells have shown little to no positive conclusions. Taxpayers should not be funding research that intentionally kills and uses for research a human being at its very beginning stages of life, especially when there is a viable alternative that does not take life.

The effectiveness of embryonic stem cells over adult stem cells is a scientific fact that everyone except the most extreme of the anti-choice movement has recognized.  In order to continue to push the belief that what exists at the absolute moment of conception is actually a baby, embryonic stem cell research has to be rejected all together in order to avoid any potential wedge that could be considered compromise, regardless of whether that affects the health of the already born who could be cured via research.

The Reverand Dr. Carlton W. Veazey pointed out the conflict of using moral arguments to advocate for an embryo’s frozen perpetual existence over the life of someone who is born and suffering in a post about the recent lawsuit that put a halt to federal funding of stem cell research back in August.

The lawsuit leading to the injunction involves a serious moral issue that the Religious Right has seized upon as part of its crusade against women’s reproductive rights and dedication to establishing its interpretation of Christianity in law: namely, the status of embryos that are the source of stem cells used for research. Halting this research shows great regard for embryos – but not the millions of people with incurable conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s who could benefit from this research.

Respect for all human life is a basic principle of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC)  – but the facts are that these embryos were created for fertility treatments, are no longer needed, and are slated by those who created them for destruction. In RCRC’s view, in weighing competing moral claims, it is less ethical to keep them frozen indefinitely and then to destroy them than to allow them to serve a healing purpose.

Is it truly “pro-life” to keep an unaware, unborn entity in limbo at the expense of living creatures who are suffering?  The anti-choice believe that embryo does have more value, if just for the political sake of their argument, but they may find most of the public does not agree.

The list is a greedy power grab for groups that believe that because of the election results, their demands must be met.  But for a large number of candidates that they advocated for, trying to win a second term may mean more to them than passing the entirety of the anti-choice’s agenda, especially when so many of the demands are out of the mainstream.