Budget compromise on abortion funding: no direct, plenty of indirect

Edited 9/28/19: Governor’s signing is still pending, awaiting the bill’s enrollment process.

As of September 25, New Hampshire has a new budget for the coming biennium. In a compromise overwhelmingly approved by legislators and soon to be signed by Governor Sununu, the budget includes language preventing the direct funding of abortion using state dollars.

Or rather, more-or-less preventing. More on that below. But for now, my hat’s off to the House and Senate minority leadership teams (GOP) who refused to cave in to the majority’s desire to open the door to direct funding.

Direct abortion funding: not this time

No direct funding: that’s a depressingly low bar to clear. I work and pray for the day when there’s no need to jump for joy over something that ought to be fundamental policy. I likewise work and pray for the day when no party thinks direct funding is a good idea.

In the no-direct-funding provision, budget negotiators added a sneaky little clause that bears watching (emphasis added):  “Unless specifically appropriated in the biennial budget, no state funds awarded by the department of health and human services to a reproductive health care facility, as defined in RSA 132:37, I, shall be used to provide abortion services.”

There should be no “unless.”

In any case, the no-direct-funding provision was welcomed by Governor Sununu, who continues to draw a line between funding abortion and funding abortion providers.

indirect abortion funding: more than ever

The political trade-off for getting the no-direct-funding language was to hand additional funds to the state’s largest abortion provider. You can see why I haven’t used the word “victory” to describe the budget compromise.

Every public dollar that goes to an abortion provider, even for non-abortion work, helps keep the abortion side of the business going.

In an earlier post, I outlined the situation with Title X federal family planning funds in the state budget. Several New Hampshire family planning contractors are also abortion providers, principally Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. When the federal government recently enacted the Protect Life Rule barring abortion providers from receiving Title X funds, PPNNE announced that it would leave the federal Title X program rather than give up doing abortions.

In the state budget compromise, there’s a huge increase in the family planning appropriation from the state general fund, compared to last biennium’s budget. That increase exists to offset PPNNE’s “loss” of federal funds under the Protect Life Rule. PPNNE and a few smaller contractors voluntarily surrendered those federal dollars in order to keep their abortion businesses going.

In other words, abortion providers will now get more state dollars precisely because they’re abortion providers. The dollars are appropriated for “family planning,” but the increase over the previous biennium isn’t going to the Title X contractors who are abortion-free. The increase is going to the abortion providers.

And that’s what political compromise looks like this week. “It’s the best we’re going to get,” I was told by a source close to the negotiations. That’s true, for now.

The To-Do list from the Pro-Life Women’s Conference

(This is a follow-up to my earlier report on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference held in Dallas, Texas in June.)

Serrin Foster speaking at conference, in front of sign saying Women Deserve Better Than Abortion
Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life speaking at the first Pro-Life Women’s Conference.. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

Six weeks after the first-but-not-last Pro-Life Women’s Conference bringing together pro-life women from all over the U.S.A., I’ve had time to digest what I heard from the people I met there. I’ve had time to read the bagful of material I picked up from various groups at the event. How can I summarize it all?

I think a to-do list is the way to go. Here are some of the calls to action I heard, from some of the amazing and challenging people I met in Dallas at PLWC.

Get out there

Not every sidewalk counseling or sidewalk witness organization was represented at the conference, but those that were agreed on this much: peaceful pro-life presence outside abortion facilities is essential.

I’m partial to 40 Days for Life, as longtime readers know. It was great to shake hands with a 40DFL leader from Dallas who was handing out flyers for the next campaign, beginning September 28. For New Hampshire information, go to 40daysforlife.com/manchester.

Expose clinic abuses: the #NotOver Campaign

Put women’s health ahead of politics by scrutinizing every inspection report available from abortion facilities – and if there’s no public health oversight, work to change that.

Even as abortion providers in Texas were challenging the state law calling for abortion facilities to improve their safety standards, concerned Texas citizens led by Abby Johnson were investigating inspection records from abortion facilities. At PLWC, Johnson revealed the first of several records indicating various violations that put women’s health at risk.

The inspection record’s campaign got its name just a day after the conference, when the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Texas law on safety standards for abortion facilities. It’s not over, replied Johnson – and so the #NotOver Campaign got its name.

Read the Texas reports.  Do the abortion facilities in your area get this kind of scrutiny?

Support and expand pro-life women’s health care options

Representatives of The Guiding Star Project shared their ministry of partnering with pregnancy care centers and medical practices to provide abortion-free health care. Other speakers referred to the thousands of federally-funded community clinics where abortions aren’t performed or funded.

Through whatever mechanism is available, reach toward the goal of more abortion-free options for women seeking authentic health care for themselves and their families.

Speakers at Pro-Life Women's Conference
Pro-Life Women’s Conference 2016: panel on abortion’s “hard cases.” Panelists include d Darlene Pawlik and Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 (second and third from left) and Melissa Ohden, abortion survivor (speaking, at center).

Expand your definition of pro-life

Many speakers at the conference came at this point from different angles. Respecting the right to life means respecting it for the unborn, the elderly, the medically vulnerable, the convicted criminal. There’s something to prompt prayer and discernment.

Protect and expand the Hyde Amendment

Members of Secular Pro-Life at PLWC 2016. Here are some of the champions of the #HelloHyde campaign.

I reported on the #HelloHyde campaign in my earlier post on the conference. Since then, one of the two major American political parties has made repeal of the Hyde Amendment a plank in the party platform. This would change the 40-year-old policy, known as the Hyde Amendment, that prevents Medicaid dollars from funding most abortions.

Ask candidates about this – particularly federal candidates. Will you protect Hyde? Will you expand it so that it protects children conceived in violence? Or do  you want taxpayers to pay for abortions?

Listen to birth mothers

“These are the bravest women I know,” said Abby Johnson as she introduced a panel of women who chose life for their children and then placed them for adoption.

Each woman had a different story regarding circumstances of pregnancy and adoption. It’s impossible to be indifferent when listening to them.

Listen more. Learn more. Help build a culture that honors adoption and birth parents. Start here: bravelove.org and talkaboutadoption.com.

Look for allies in unlikely places

The pro-life movement is much broader than its detractors would have you believe. Break a barrier by listening to someone who took a different path from yours to the truth about the value of human life.

In Texas, I met people from way outside my day-to-day experience: Democrats for Life of America. Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. Pro-Life Humanists.

They made me wonder how many pro-life allies I haven’t met simply because I haven’t looked.

I was pleased to see at the conference that Pro-Life Humanists were handing out a brochure that included quotes from the late Nat Hentoff, a journalist whose work influenced my early activism.

“Being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual – Williams Obstetrics, for example – points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born ‘should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman.’…It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because the thing is not yet a ‘person.’ Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.”

I could go on. What I’ll remember about this conference, and the reasons I’ll come back if there’s another, are the women with different beliefs but a common respect for life.

Weekend reading: celebrate Hyde; compare/contrast; victory in New Mexico

This was a tough week to pick only three items from the Best of the Rest pile for your weekend reading. I hope these are three that you haven’t seen yet – enjoy them, and have a happy Independence Day weekend!

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

This is a link to a web site, not a single blog entry, but this is can’t-miss information. September marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which sharply limits Medicaid funding of abortions. (There are exceptions for abortions in case of rape, incest, and life of the mother.) Abortion providers want Hyde eliminated. A pro-life coalition led by Secular Pro-Life wants to celebrate it and expand it:

“Celebrate the lives saved by the Hyde Amendment and the lives of all Medicaid kids. Preserve the Hyde Amendment against attacks from the abortion lobby. Expand the Hyde Amendment to cover children in every state and children conceived through violence, and cut the abortion industry off from all sources of taxpayer funding (not just Medicaid).”

Watch Twitter & Instagram for the #HelloHyde hash tag.

Goldberg: No-Gun list? How about a No-Abort list? (nationalreview.com)

Commentator and occasional provocateur Jonah Goldberg has a modest proposal: contrast anti-Second-Amendment rhetoric with pro-abortion rhetoric. Read the full post. (Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.)

New Mexico court rules against against assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition reports on the unanimous vote by the New Mexico Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that “found” a right to assisted suicide in the state.

“The original case was based on a word game. The original case argued that ‘aid in dying’, which is also known as assisted suicide, is not prohibited by the New Mexico assisted suicide law because ‘aid in dying’ is not assisted suicide.” Read the full post. 

This week in history: Henry Hyde born 1924

Screen Shot 2022-04-09 at 2.32.18 PM
Rep. Henry Hyde (photo from house.gov)  

The year after Roe v. Wade, Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois fought for and got a limitation (not a ban) on abortion funding in federal Health and Human Services appropriations bills. The Hyde Amendment has been renewed ever since, despite ongoing efforts by abortion advocates to kill it.

I’m indebted to Priests for Life for reminding me of this statement by the late Congressman, who always sought to encourage resistance to Roe v. Wade.

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!'”

Noted: anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

[First posted in 2013; amended to reflect current date]

Henry Hyde (photo: Wikipedia)
Henry Hyde (photo: Wikipedia)

I hereby note the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. In 1976, it was the first substantive federal measure to limit the use of tax dollars for abortion. To this day, abortion providers hate it, even though it has exceptions. Those exceptions have led some pro-lifers to oppose it, too.

I’m not one of them. Anything that limits access to my pocket by abortion providers is okay with me. I’m no expert on the measure, but here is what I’ve seen of it (and yes, I’m old enough to have been around when it was first passed).

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In 1976, Henry Hyde (RIP) was a Congressman representing an area just outside Chicago. He had been elected in 1974 and was to serve in the House for thirty-two years. In ’76, though, he was just another congressman barely known outside his district. That changed when he drafted a rider to the federal Health, Education, and Welfare budget to keep federal funds from being used to fund abortions within HEW programs, particularly Medicaid. (HEW was later folded into the Department of Health and Human Services.) He persuaded his colleagues to accept that rider, which has been attached to every HHS budget since.

The amendment (rider, actually) has outlived its author. Hyde died in 2007, just a few months after leaving office.

The amendment has been through some changes. Exceptions for funding abortions in case of rape, incest, and health of the mother were added. Abortion advocates dragged the amendment to the Supreme Court, and the measure survived. All this, just to put somewhere into federal law a way to keep pro-life Americans from helping to fund the abortion industry.

We’re not totally disentangled from the industry, by a long shot. Hyde applies only to the HHS budget. The rider could be dropped anytime, despite its long standing. States may use their own funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. Now, Obamacare is creating new ways to force taxpayers into collusion with abortion providers, chiefly through the HHS mandate.

Even so, thanks to the foresight of an Illinois congressman, abortion funding has never been something that abortion providers can take for granted. Providers cast Hyde’s work as something that discriminates against poor women. They evince no similar concern for the poor children killed by abortion.

I think well of Henry Hyde. I hope his tenacity will serve as an example to pro-life elected officials for a long time to come.