A response to the Star Tribune regarding MCCL-backed legislation

Editor’s note. This appeared yesterday on the blog of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), National Right to Life’s state affiliate.

The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune Wednesday editorialized against the MCCL-backed Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the MCCL-backed bill banning taxpayer funding of abortion, both of which have passed the state House and Senate but face a possible veto from Gov. Mark Dayton.

The editorial offers nothing very substantial. It does provide some misleading rhetoric.

The editorial board writes that the two pro-life bills “would radically restrict reproductive rights in the state.” That claim seems wildly unjustified. The taxpayer funding ban, for example, would not affect the legality of abortion — so-called “reproductive rights” — in any way. It would only affect the use of government funds to pay for private citizens’ abortions. And the Pain Capable bill, which prohibits abortions on unborn children capable of feeling pain, would affect only a tiny fraction of abortions in our state…  That is hardly a “radical restriction.”

The editorial says the Pain Capable law “could cruelly compel a woman to carry a stillborn to term.” No, that’s simply false. Removing a child who has died of natural causes in the womb is not an abortion, and it is explicitly not prohibited by the legislation. (If only the editorial writers had read the bill!)

The editorial cites Prof. David Schultz (not the best advocate to have in one’s corner), who claims both MCCL-backed bills are unconstitutional. The authors fail to mention any scholars who disagree — such as constitutional law expert Prof. Teresa Collett, who also testified at the state Capitol.

Are the bills unconstitutional? It is evident upon reading the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions — and understanding them in their historical context — that they do not contain a right to abortion (much less a right to abortion when the developing unborn human being can experience pain) and a right to government-subsidized abortion, respectively. The bills are clearly constitutionally permissible. Will the U.S. and Minnesota Supreme Courts agree? There is a good chance they will. But we are on solid legal ground nonetheless.

Yesterday’s editorial also complains at length about proposed cuts to family planning funding. We (MCCL) do not take a position on family planning funding, but we do oppose sending funds to organizations that perform or promote abortion. The editorial calls the denial of funds to abortion providers “a ludicrous gag rule,” and writes:

How can the [Republican] party that decries big government rationalize a measure that restricts speech and inserts the state between providers and patients?

This objection doesn’t make sense to me. We are not talking about restrictions on speech or on what happens at family planning clinics. We are talking about the allocation of government funds. We are talking about what kinds of organizations/work deserve to be subsidized by taxpayers. If anything, the editorial (not us) is advocating “big government” by trying to “insert the state” into a controversial matter, using taxpayer dollars and government approval to support otherwise-private practices. Removing government from the situation (denying state funds) can hardly be considered “big government.”

The editorial claims that denying abortion providers state money would undermine our “overarching goal” of “stopping abortions.” On the contrary: Evidence shows that the more money abortion providers and promoters receive, the greater the number of abortions they perform or help facilitate. In addition, studies have concluded that restrictions or prohibitions on public funding of abortion — like the MCCL-supported bill — are the most effective type of (current) legislation in reducing the number of abortions.

The editorial claims it is “cruel” and “heartless” toward low-income women to deny public funds to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. That’s not true. Better alternatives for women are available — we need not subsidize an already-wealthy and ridiculously scandal-plagued abortion industry.

What is perhaps most noteworthy about the Star Tribune piece is that it includes no defense at all of the permissibility of dismembering and killing unborn human beings who have developed to point at which they are sensitive to pain (“cruel” and “heartless,” anyone?). Nor does it include a defense of requiring taxpayers to subsidize other people’s abortions. MCCL and others have marshaled evidence and sound reason on behalf of our pro-life bills (see posts linked below). The Star Tribune offers us nothing.

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