I’m rambling a bit here, but all these disjointed thoughts about some life issues seem to be drifting together.

There’s nothing new under the sun, says the book of Ecclesiastes. What’s strange to me is old news to someone in a different place or situation.

I’m thinking in particular of two women from Canada whom I recently met, and of the parents of Charlie Gard, whose story you may already know (see Pete’s reflection on Charlie’s death).

Charlie Gard is at rest now, and his parents in their grief are at least spared further attention from the European Commission on Human Rights, which denied them custody of their critically-ill son. When they started seeking treatment for their baby – AND raising money for it, so the National Health Service in their country (Britain) couldn’t plead lack of resources – I’m sure they were shocked to find out that a hospital could deny them custody. The “experts” knew better. The “experts” were going to ration care, since the parents wouldn’t ration it themselves.

It can’t happen here, I thought. We don’t have a single-payer system for health care (at least not yet). I ventured to say as much to a few people. Two of them gave me a where-have-you-been look and reminded me about Justina Pelletier. Shame on me for needing to be reminded.

Nothing new.

The Canadian women I mentioned were attending a pro-life conference with me, and we chatted over coffee as we waited for the day’s work to begin. They told me about their province where a “bubble zone” law is in effect and where doctors who don’t do abortions are obliged to refer abortion-minded patients to more accommodating providers.

I was surprised at what they said, until I reflected that my own state has a buffer zone law, although no abortion provider will use it for fear of litigation which will result in the law being thrown out. (Our law is modeled on the one the Supreme Court threw out in the McCullen case from Massachusetts.) Likewise, conscience protections for health care providers have been defeated again and again in my state legislature, although so far no statute requires abortion referrals.

Nothing new. The details are different between my state and their province, but the issues are the same.

My Canadian companions weren’t complaining, though. They spoke in matter-of-fact tones, without hand-wringing. They go out to witness near abortion facilities anyway. They support physicians and other providers whose conscience rights are at risk. They refuse to shrug and go home, thinking “game over.”

What a witness they were to me, in their quiet way.

For that matter, there was no “game over” for women at that pro-life conference who spoke about “adverse prenatal diagnosis.” Those moms we listened to were all told during pregnancy that they had defective babies. The language varied, but the message was the same. All were told they could abort. All said no (and I’m sure a few said “hell, no”).

The outcomes: some of the children died in infancy – but they died in the arms of their parents, not in the custody of the state. Other children were born and, lo and behold, had none of the maladies that had been diagnosed or predicted prenatally by the “experts.” Still others were born with complex conditions that proved manageable and treatable.

Among the lessons: doctors don’t know everything. Nothing new there.

That brings me back to the family of Charlie Gard. I’m sure that neither of his parents woke up one day and said, “Gee, I think I’ll be pro-life today!” They weren’t pursuing a cause. They were defending their son. They weren’t denying the reality of their son’s condition, but they defended their own right to be parents and Charlie’s rights as well, first to receive treatment and then to die in their loving arms.

One unexpected situation at a time, one appalling governmental policy at a time, all the people I’m thinking about refused to say game over. The family of Charlie Gard, the Canadian women who refused to be discouraged, the mothers who were told their kids were hopelessly imperfect: I have things to learn from each of them.

And that’s nothing new.

Abortion’s legal. So is declining to put it on the public dime. That’s been the uneasy truce for many years between abortion providers (and promoters) and American taxpayers. Uneasy, and shaky: even since 1976 with the Hyde Amendment, children conceived through violence have always been at risk of abortion at public expense.

This week,  the U.S. House has taken a step toward making the Hyde Amendment permanent, and President Trump has reinstated the Mexico City policy. The Hyde Amendment refers to abortion-funding limitations in the domestic Health and Human Services budget, which must be renewed each budget cycle. The Mexico City policy (named for the location of the 1984 U.N. conference where the policy was first adopted) prevents U.S. money sent to the United Nations Population Fund from being used for abortion activity, as distinct from family planning.

The Mexico City policy has been in effect under every Republican president since Reagan. It was revoked by Democrats Clinton and Obama. For a generation, it has been an indicator of one of the differences between the two major parties: Democrats want public money to be available for abortion in all circumstances. Republicans don’t.

There are resisters to the Hyde and Mexico City provisions, of course, who have dusted off the moniker “global gag rule” to describe the Mexico City policy . Let the hashtagging begin. You’re not only trying to keep people from doing abortions, but even talking to women about abortion, say the hashtaggers. No, we’re just trying to keep the hands of abortion providers out of the pockets of people who recognize that abortion terminates human life.

A woman is free to choose abortion. Are you and I free to refuse to pay for it? The opponents of Hyde and Mexico City say no. They defend choice for the abortion-minded woman, but not for the pro-life taxpayer.

The “gag rule” argument is one of two used by coerced-funding fans. The other is the claim that abortion is health care and must be treated as such. Both arguments get more traction every time a politician parrots them without dispute.

Attorney Cathleen Cleaver, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001, noted that any “gag” on abortion providers under the Mexico City policy is self-imposed.

…the policy forces nothing: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may choose to apply for U.S. tax funds, and to be eligible, they must refrain from abortion activity. On the other hand, NGOs may choose to do abortions or to lobby foreign nations to change their laws which restrict abortion, and if they choose that path they render themselves ineligible for U.S. money. As we saw the last time the policy was in place [under President Reagan], only two out of hundreds of organizations elected to forfeit the U.S. money for which they were otherwise eligible. But it was and will be entirely their choice.

Hyde has been a legislative action. Mexico City has been an executive action. The judiciary weighed in on this a long time ago, coming down on the side of people who choose not to fund abortion, upholding the Hyde Amendment in Harris v. McRae (1980). Yet public funding of abortion activity is still an open question: Hyde must be proposed anew every two years, use of the Mexico City policy depends on the personal preferences of a president, and what today’s Supreme Court might do if faced with a funding case is anyone’s guess.

This week’s actions by President Trump and the House are most welcome. They may prove to be only passing victories, though, unless the people who want nothing to do with the abortion industry become as noisy and persistent as the people determined to fund the industry publicly.

By the way, I heard Cecile Richards crowing after the election that the advent of Trump has led to a huge increase in donations to Planned Parenthood. How many of those donations were designated for political use rather than clinical care? How much public funding could be offset by these donations, if Planned Parenthood so chose? Are we going to see those figures anytime during this year’s funding debate?