I posted a couple of weeks ago about the Trump Administration’s proposed rule to keep Title X (Ten) federal family planning money from being used to benefit abortion providers. The formal period for public comment is open now through July 31.

h/t to Jeanneane Maxon, formerly of Americans United for Life, for this brief summary: “Currently, abortion providers, or organizations that refer for abortion, get significant tax payer dollars through Title X funding. The Rule would require a bright line of physical as well as financial separation between Title X programs and any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning. Please take 15 minutes this week and comment.”

If you don’t have 15 minutes, take 5.  My own comment is going to be brief: abortion isn’t family planning, and taxpayer funds for family planning programs should not be diverted in any way to subsidize or provide abortion.

Here’s the link to the Regulations.gov page for public comment; look for the Comment Now button on the right side of the page. That page includes a great deal of information about the proposed rule and the Title X program.

(“Regulations.gov”: now that’s a perfect name for a bureaucracy’s web presence.)

Ellen Kolb is a pro-life writer and activist in New Hampshire. She writes about pro-life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

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(Adapted from a post I wrote for Leaven for the Loaf.)

The Trump Administration has announced a proposed Health and Human Services rule that would prevent federal Title X (Ten) family planning money from going to abortion providers. That’s “proposed.” It’s a long road from announcement to implementation. Some pro-lifers are cheering as though it’s a done deal, and abortion providers are screaming as only people who’ve been hit in the wallet can scream.

Take a breath, folks. The proposed rule is good news. It would protect taxpayers from involvement in the abortion industry. But the rule is not in place yet, and may never be. The President has announced a proposal. Tip of the iceberg, you might say. To see what the rest of it looks like, feast your eyes on the rulemaking process as described in the Federal Register.

But, still – this is a start.

The outraged wails of abortion advocates are reminding me of the similar reaction to the Supreme Court’s 1991 Rust decision, establishing that it’s permissible for the federal government to tell family planning clinics that they can’t use taxpayer funds to perform, refer for, or counsel for abortions – since, after all, abortion is not family planning. Then, as now, abortion advocates called funding restrictions a “gag rule.” They called funding restrictions a violation of freedom of speech, instead of what they are: protection of the conscience rights of people who don’t want to help pay for any aspect of abortion.

(A couple of years after the Rust decision, President Clinton suspended the regulations that Rust had okayed – and ever since, abortion providers have lined up for Title X funds every budget cycle.)

As for indignant cries of “gag rule,” the most strident critics of the proposed Title X rule are not noted for their defense of First Amendment rights of peaceful pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities. They only discovered the First Amendment when abortion providers’ pocketbooks were threatened.

Back in ’91, just after the Rust decision, I got a letter from my then-Congressman claiming that the decision was a “devastating blow” to free speech, on the grounds that agencies using Title X funds were being forbidden to counsel for abortions. This was from a man who had for office on a claim that he opposed sending taxpayer funding or subsidies for abortion. He recognized when he ran for office that there is a difference between family planning and abortion, and he realized that family planning funds in the hands of abortion providers simply free up other funds within the providers’ budgets for use in abortions.

Then abortion providers started accusing my Congressman of opposing free speech. Worked like a charm, since no one wants to be accused of violating the First Amendment. He changed his tune.

Today, just as in 1991, it literally pays to disguise funding as free speech. Hence the revival of the misleading term “gag rule.”

The essence of the President’s proposed rule is this, which is no different from the Reagan rule that led to the Rust decision: Title X is for family planning. Abortion is not family planning. Congress is within its rights to forbid abortion providers from using a grant for purposes unrelated to the grant’s goals. If you counsel for, refer for, or perform abortions, you may do so without using family planning funds.

The response from the abortion industry is this: I’ll promote what I please; you should pay for that promotion; refusal to pay equals censorship.

Providers who do both abortions and family planning could, if they chose, separate out the abortion business and do it as a separate enterprise, with separate facilities, equipment, funding and staffing. Title X grants for family planning would then not entangle taxpayers in abortion in any way. But that’s not the path abortion providers want to take.

It’s worth remembering that while the President’s proposed rule is a pro-life initiative, it has no bearing on the right to life. It doesn’t recognize the personhood or humanity of any preborn child. What it does is respect the conscience rights of taxpayers who don’t want to help subsidize abortions.

Even that is more than abortion advocates can tolerate.

Ellen Kolb is a pro-life writer and activist in New Hampshire. She writes about pro-life issues at Leaven for the Loaf. 

Support independent journalism today: hit DaTipJar for DaTechGuy blog. Thank you!

As of midday today, my state is no longer the only one in New England without “gender identity” language in the state’s anti-discrimination law. That’s what’s in the area’s headlines tonight and it’s what will lead the area’s news stories tomorrow.

What you probably won’t hear is that my state representatives voted on two other gender-policy bills as well. One would have prohibited taxpayer funding of so-called gender reassignment procedures. The other would have prohibited gender reassignment for minors.

Both those bills were killed. The choice to reject those bills is at least as significant as the choice to pass the “gender identity” measure.

The taxpayer funding measure was drafted after the state’s department of health and human services decided last year, without benefit of having a public hearing first, to cover gender reassignment under Medicaid. Then and now, advocates of taxpayer funding said that gender reassignment is a non-elective procedure, and that religious objections to paying for it are just excuses for bigotry.

Say the word “bigot” often enough and it sticks.

The bill to prevent minors from having healthy body parts amputated in the name of gender reassignment was defeated in a state that has a law against minors using tanning beds. Come to think of it, the same state also has laws restricting purchase and consumption of alcohol and tobacco by minors.

But puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones, and removal of healthy body parts? Go for it.

Somehow, I don’t think today’s votes settled the issue.

Ellen Kolb is a writer living in New Hampshire. Read more by her at ellenkolb.com

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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?