Editor’s note. This column, written by NRLC President Carol Tobias, appears in the October digital edition of National Right to Life News. All the stories, commentaries,and editorials can be read at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsOct2015.pdf
A lot of well-deserved time and attention has been given to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the videos released in recent months. Planned Parenthood is a vile organization that kills more than 300,000 unborn children every year. Pro-lifers are understandably upset that this behemoth receives approximately half a billion dollars from federal, state, and local governments.
Are Planned Parenthood affiliates making money from the sale of body parts from these babies? Are they manipulating the abortion procedure so as to keep the baby’s body in better condition for harvesting organs and tissue? Are they getting “consent” from the women whose babies are being killed and harvested for parts? Several congressional committees are investigating these questions and more. I look forward to their official findings.
The U.S. House has twice this year passed legislation to de-fund PPFA, and passed a third bill to grant states broader powers to remove abortion providers from the Medicaid program. Senate efforts to pass such legislation have been blocked by filibusters by Democratic senators who support continued monies to PPFA.
In the weeks leading up to October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year for the federal government, there was much discussion about whether or not Congress should refuse to pass a “continuing resolution” (“CR”), leading to a shutdown of the federal government, in the [mistaken] belief that President Obama could be “forced” to agree to enactment of a new law that would block PPFA from receiving federal funds.
For more details on what a CR is and does, you can read our summary here.
On September 30, the CR cleared Congress and was signed by President Obama; it includes the programs covered in regular appropriations bills – virtually all discretionary spending for the entire federal government. Basically, federal programs were put on “auto-pilot” by this CR, which runs until December 11.
Neither this CR nor any other federal spending bills include “line items” that specifically designate money for Planned Parenthood. Rather, individual Planned Parenthood affiliates tap into funds from various on-going health programs. The greatest amount of federal monies, comes from so-called “mandatory spending” programs, mostly Medicaid, a huge program created by federal law in which states collaborate. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that PPFA receives an aggregate amount of approximately $450 million annually in federal funds, of which roughly $390 million, or 87%, comes through the Medicaid program.
Thus, there is no “line item” to strike in the CR, no place where insertion of a zero will do the trick. Rather, in order to deny federal funds to PPFA, a NEW LAW must be enacted to specifically block funding, either for PPFA by name, or to abortion providers, however described. To pass a new law would require a majority in the U.S. House, 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to overcome a filibuster, and the signature of President Obama, a staunch defender of PPFA.
One bill that would go to the president that only requires 51 votes in the Senate is known as the “reconciliation bill.” This once-a-year type of legislation, by law, is not subject to a filibuster and can pass the Senate with a majority vote. Such a bill cannot carry airtight language to totally defund PP, but it may attack their major funding streams, the so-called mandatory funding programs. If passed in the House and Senate, the bill will be sent to President Obama. At National Right to Life’s urging, the 2015 reconciliation bill includes language to curb 89% of federal funding to PPFA and we strongly support passage of the bill.
When reporters ask me about what Planned Parenthood is doing with the remains of the dead babies, I will frankly say, “What is even more disturbing is that these babies are being killed in the first place.”
We want PPFA to lose their funding from tax dollars, but that is not the end game. The goal of the pro-life movement is to stop abortion and save these helpless little ones. To do that, we need a pro-life president who will sign bills, not just to defund Planned Parenthood but to protect unborn babies. We need a president who will sign bills like 1) the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, to ban abortions on unborn babies past 20 weeks fetal age who feel pain, 2) the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act, to protect unborn children from being killed by the dismemberment abortion method, and 3) the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, to establish federal penalties for killing or failing to care for a baby who is born alive during an abortion.
These, of course, are just interim measures until we have a Supreme Court which will further scale back or nullify Roe v Wade.
In the meantime, our state affiliates will continue to press as hard as they can to save as many babies as they can within their own states by introducing the above-mentioned bills as well as many others. Possible legislation would prevent the chemical abortion method from being prescribed over the internet (webcam abortions) to women who never see the abortionist in person, or to require that a woman be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound of her baby before she gets an abortion, or requiring that parents be notified before an abortion is performed on their minor daughter.
And in the months leading up to the election of a new president, I hope we are all doing everything we can to make sure that our pro-life friends are registered to vote, then voting.