EXCLUSIVE: Steve King Calls on Leadership, Advocacy Groups to Protect Unborn with Heartbeat BillJanuary 19, 2018
New HHS Department Created to Protect Religious FreedomJanuary 19, 2018
By Josh M. Shepherd, The Stream, January 18, 2018
On Friday, the March for Life will be held one day before President Donald Trump marks his first year in office. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the tens of thousands gathered. The White House announced Wednesday morning that President Trump will deliver brief remarks at this year’s March for Life. His speech will be simulcast live from the Rose Garden.
Pro-life leaders have offered both glowing and disappointed reviews of the president’s record thus far. A policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, Melanie Israel emphasizes why these policies matter in the first place. “The right to life is the most fundamental right of all,” she says. “Without that right, all of our other freedoms are not quite as important.”
As to the White House pro-life agenda, it started with a 2016 letter from then-candidate Trump. “President Trump went on the record before the election saying he was committed to policies like Pain Capable, the Conscience Protection Act and defunding Planned Parenthood,” she says. “Those are all key policies Congress has been pursuing.”
Status Report on 7 Key Pro-Life Policies
Looking at specifics can help clarify the issues. Aside from item one, this list examines the status of proposed laws related to abortion policies. Further insight into potential administrative action is noted at the end.
1. Stop the U.S. From Exporting Abortion Overseas
Mexico City Policy (Reinstated)
Status: Executive Order signed Jan. 23, 2017
President Trump issued a pro-life decision on his first Monday in office. He blocked the U.S. from funding health providers who perform or promote abortion services overseas. This order aligned with previous ones by Presidents Reagan and Bush.
The policy has been interpreted more broadly than in previous years. Initially, it was estimated to affect $600 million in aid funding. “This policy does not cut global health assistance funding,” says Israel. “It’s saying that more than $8 billion in taxpayer funds will no longer be entangled with the abortion industry.”
2. Reverse Last-Minute Obama Administration Pro-Choice Policy
Title X Congressional Review Act
Status: Signed into law by President Trump on Apr. 13, 2017
Another pro-life win came early in his presidency. Congressional leaders were dismayed by a last-minute decision by the Obama Administration. It would have kept public funds flowing to Planned Parenthood despite state-level efforts to exclude the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood has recently been under investigation on several fronts, from Medicaid fraud to unethical practices.
Both the House and Senate passed a bill allowing states to make their own decisions regarding Title X federal funding. Because of a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote.
3. Prohibit Most Abortions at 20 Weeks Fetal Development
Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
Status: Passed House on Oct. 3, 2017 by 237-189, no Senate vote scheduled
This bill has been the most discussed priority among pro-life leaders. It was central in the 2016 letter sent to pro-life leaders. Pro-life advocates estimate the policy “would save over 15,000 preborn lives annually.”
On October 3, House debate on both sides was impassioned. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., had the final word. “This is a good bill, it is a just bill,” she said. “[We are] called as human beings to protect the lives of the most innocent.” In a special election, Planned Parenthood’s political arm spent $735,000 on behalf of her opponent. On the Senate side, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has introduced the bill.
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4. Ensure Lives Born After Attempted Abortions Have a Chance
Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
Status: House vote scheduled for Jan. 19, 2018
This bill may sound familiar to many. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed with strong support in 2002. It even received unanimous consent in the Senate. The policy mandates clinics provide medical care to infants who survive abortion.
However, abortion providers have not been held accountable. In recent years, Pennsylvania investigators found horrific conditions at an abortion clinic run by Kermit Gosnell. “This new bill is about adding enforcement,” says Melanie Israel. “It provides consequences for health care providers who violate that 2002 law.”
She provides further insight. “It’s pretty amazing how things have changed in the time span of 15 years,” notes Israel. “Back then, both parties protected born-alive infants. This week, I’m sure some people on Capitol Hill will vote against this bill.”
5. Make the Hyde Amendment Permanent
No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
Status: Passed House on Jan. 24, 2017 by 238-183, no Senate vote scheduled
Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has ensured that U.S. taxpayers do not directly fund abortion services. Making that policy permanent is the goal of this bill, authored by Rep. Chris Smith. He has long served as chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus.
The Hyde policy has to be added annually to appropriations bills. This law would make it a blanket federal policy rather than subject to the politics of committees.
6. Protect the Ethical Decisions of Health Providers
Conscience Protection Act
Status: No vote scheduled in House or Senate
Many health providers have ethical reasons for not participating in abortions or sterilization. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, several conscience protection policies were passed. Yet HHS has failed to enforce these policies in recent years.
Medical professionals and non-profit groups have been penalized for standing on their convictions. In 2009, a nurse in New York was told she’d be fired if she didn’t assist with an abortion. Others point to more recent incidents.
“A couple years ago, California mandated that almost all health plans have to cover elective abortions,” says Israel. “Now that clearly flies in the face of existing conscience protections. But under the Obama Administration, surprise! They found that wasn’t a violation.” The Conscience Protection Act would strengthen enforcement of existing policies.
7. End All Federal Funding of Abortion Providers
Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act
Status: No vote scheduled in House or Senate
Planned Parenthood International lost funding due to the Mexico City Policy (see above). Yet the largest abortion provider has fared better stateside. Planned Parenthood received $543 million in taxpayer funds last year.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., has proposed halting federal funding of any abortion provider. She notes Title X exists for critical women’s health services, not other purposes. A recent analysis found there are 13 times more federally qualified health centers than Planned Parenthood locations. These centers provide women’s health services but do not perform abortions.
“I will not rest until we put a stop to the blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars to subsidize this big abortion business,” states Black. “Abortion is not healthcare. It destroys one life and damages another.” She recently announced plans to run for Governor of Tennessee on a pro-life platform.
“There have been more than 350 pro-life laws passed in the states since 2010. That’s not happening by accident.” — Melanie Israel
Seeing the Bigger Picture
Pro-life advocates may be discouraged by the lack of movement on some issues. Yet the Heritage policy analyst has a broader view.
“It’s important to remember the many pro-life victories at the state level,” she begins. “There have been more than 350 pro-life laws passed in the states since 2010. That’s not happening by accident. It’s happening because people are putting pro-life legislators in office who are passing pro-life laws.”
Federal policymakers can learn something from these victories, according to Israel. “They can feel emboldened to know, This truly is the will of the people,” she says. “This is an agenda they should be pursuing.”
As to the Trump Administration, pro-life leaders plan to outline specific steps that could be taken at an event next week. Leaders from Americans United for Life and Susan B. Anthony List will present alongside Israel. “We all know that administrative action is not permanent, but it’s still very important,” she states.