Search This Blog

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Law Professor Alvaré makes the case for conscience rights, Protect Life Act

Prof. Alvaré
Law professor Helen Alvaré provides a well-reasoned rationale for the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358, in her column, "Bills Needed to Repel Obama’s Attack on Pro-Life Conscience."
Prof. Alvaré observes,
There is no need to view the matter of conscience protection in health care as a zero-sum game between conscience-driven healthcare providers and the patients they serve, particularly the most vulnerable. Opponents of conscience protection often portray the situation this way, but the opposite is true.
She offers four key points:

  1. Less privileged women are less likely to support abortion or abortion funding than are more privileged women, or than men.
  2. Abortion has not mainstreamed into the American healthcare system. It remains rather, in the words of the New York Times, at the “margins of medical practice.”
  3. There is an emerging scientific and cultural willingness to conclude that abortion is a form of killing, and not health care for women.
  4. There is evidence from a growing body of sociological as well as law and economics literature that more easily available abortion is associated with women’s “immiseration,” and not their flourishing.
Prof. Alvaré concludes,

The Protect Life Act is a both a necessary and a wise amendment to the Affordable Care Act. It helps preserve within our nation’s health care delivery system the valuable contributions made by conscience-driven providers and institutions to the needs of the most vulnerable women and men. It indicates that abortion has not attained the status of a “standard” of health care, a message which might well help begin to reverse the negative role played by legalized abortion in the lives of American women, particularly the most vulnerable women. And it preserves in American law and culture the bedrock value of respect for religious and moral conscience.
Prof. Alvaré also testified before Congress on the Protect Life Act.
Action:
Click here to locate your Representative's web page, then use the Contact form on that page to send an email or place a phone call.
Sample email or phone message to your Representative:
Please vote YES on the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358 to prevent federal funding for abortion and to provide conscience protections for healthcare professionals and institutions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No evidence, no matter: Hardly "restoring science to its rightful place" on conscience in health care

From an article I wrote for the National Right to Life News:
On February 18 the Obama administration gutted the only federal regulation protecting conscientious healthcare professionals from discrimination.

While three long-standing federal conscience-protecting laws remain intact, the conscience-protecting regulation had been promulgated under the Bush administration to remedy documented pervasive discrimination against pro-life physicians and others in disregard of the anti-discrimination laws.
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius effectively eviscerated a sensible Bush-era regulation that had finally put teeth to bipartisan federal civil rights laws enacted over the past three decades. Those anti-discrimination laws were passed, all after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, as a way to keep physicians, nurses, hospitals and others from being forced out of medicine simply for following life-affirming ethical standards such as the Hippocratic oath.
But abortion advocates hyperventilated when it appeared that those laws would actually be implemented and enforced by the conscience protection regulation, which took effect in January 2009.
Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America had said, “It is going to cause chaos among providers across the country.”
Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had said: “It threatens the health and well-being of women and the rights of patients across the country.”
Of course, none of their doomsday predictions even faintly materialized in the over two years since the original regulation took effect. In explaining Friday’s regulation change, HHS presented no evidence whatsoever of any hindrance to any patient, procedure or prescription.
The complete lack of evidence didn’t seem to matter a whit, despite President Obama’s vow in his Inaugural Address to “restore science to its rightful place.”
The administration’s radical action again suggests tone deafness to the American public. Of the over 300,000 comments HHS received regarding rescission, twice as many opposed rescission as supported it. The Polling Company in 2009 conducted a nationwide scientific polling of the public and also of faith-based healthcare professionals. The results revealed that... (read full article)

Post article on conscience reg gutting regurgitates unfounded assertions as fact

A recent Washington Post news article I was interviewed for regarding the administration's gutting of the conscience regulation reads more like the talking points for radical abortion groups ("Obama administration replaces controversial 'conscience' regulation for health-care workers," February 19). From the article:
After two years of struggling to balance the rights of patients against the beliefs of health-care workers, the Obama administration on Friday finally rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect those who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds.
The decision guts one of President George W. Bush's most controversial legacies: a rule that was widely interpreted as shielding workers who refuse to participate in a range of medical services, such as providing birth control pills, caring for gay men with AIDS and performing in-vitro fertilization for lesbians or single women.
Friday's move was seen as an important step in countering that trend, which in recent years had led pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, doctors in California to reject a lesbian's request for infertility treatment, and an ambulance driver in Chicago to turn away a woman who needed transportation for an abortion.
"Without the rescission of this regulation, we would see tremendous discrimination against patients based on their behavior and based just on who they are," said Susan Berke Fogel of the National Health Law Program, an advocacy group based in the District. "We would see real people suffer, and more women could die."
The new rule leaves intact only long-standing "conscience" protections for doctors and nurses who do not want to perform abortions or sterilizations. It also retains the process for allowing health workers whose rights are violated to file complaints.
Friday's decision was condemned by proponents of stronger protections, who say doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other workers regularly face discrimination, firing and other punitive measures because of their deeply held convictions.
"Any weakening of conscience protections opens the door that much further to discrimination against life-affirming health-care professionals and institutions," said Jonathan Imbody, Vice President for Government Relations at the Christian Medical Association. "With many areas already facing critical shortages of professionals and institutions, this is no time to be risking the further loss of health-care access for poor patients." The new rule, which goes into effect in 30 days, is likely to fuel the intensifying debate over abortion and related issues. House Republicans have introduced several pieces of legislation containing provisions that would replicate many of the effects of the Bush rule. Read full article.
This article, like the administration's new regulation, asserts a raft of undocumented allegations as facts. The well-considered conscience protection regulation had been in effect for over two years. Yet opponents could come up with no evidence whatsoever to back up their wild assertions that it "threatens the health and well-being of women and the rights of patients across the country" (Hillary Clinton) or "is going to cause chaos among providers across the country" (Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America).
Where is the evidence for healthcare professionals refusing "caring for gay men with AIDS"? Faith-based healthcare professionals are among the leaders in caring for AIDS patients. Where is the evidence for any "discrimination against patients ... based just on who they are"?
This administration promised to "restore science to its rightful place," but now it's writing far-reaching regulations based on no evidence. The administration presents no evidence of any hindrance of patient access to health care, prescriptions or procedures. In the absence of evidence, this rule appears to have been written solely to accommodate the ideology and rhetoric of abortion advocates.
The only recourse we have until the next election is to pass laws protecting conscience and prohibiting discrimination in health care. I trust you will take action today
Action: Read the Freedom2Care blog, "Pro-life bills introduced in Congress - a quick summary" and contact your Representative to urge his or her support of the conscience-protecting bills.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Obama guts conscience protection regulation - analysis

The New Conscience Regulation: Gutting Protections, Laying Landmines

On February 18 the Obama administration gutted the only federal regulation protecting conscientious healthcare professionals from discrimination.
Following are direct quotes excerpted from the new conscience regulation, which included discussion sections of explanations and interpretations by Obama administration HHS officials. The regulation can be viewed in its entirety here. My comments in italics follow the quoted excerpts from the regulation.
Gutting the regulation
"Sections 88.2 through 88.5 of the 2008 Final Rule have been removed. Section 88.2 contains definitions of terms used in the federal health care provider conscience statutes. The preamble to the August 26, 2008 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (73 FR 50274) and the preamble to the December 19, 2008 Final Rule (73 FR 78072) addressing these sections are neither the position of the Department, nor guidance that should be relied upon for purposes of interpreting the federal health care provider conscience protection statutes."
These few sentences in the new regulation cut the heart out of the original conscience regulation. The definitions in the original regulation were the key to making sure the law was interpreted correctly, providing concrete examples of conscience protections backed by law. Examples included definitions of what constitutes "discrimination"; what it means to "assist in the performance of abortion"; what is a “health care entity” and who within a healthcare institution “workforce” enjoys protection under the law.
"Abortion" does not include contraception
"The 2008 Final Rule did not provide that the term “abortion,” as contained in the federal health care provider conscience protection statutes, includes contraception. However, the comments reflect that the 2008 Final Rule caused significant confusion as to whether abortion also includes contraception. The provision of contraceptive services has never been defined as abortion in federal statute. There is no indication that the federal health care provider conscience statutes intended that the term “abortion” included contraception. "
This is one of the most alarming sections of the new regulation. It seems entirely possible that this language is laying a foundation for disallowing conscientious objections to prescribing or providing contraception and abortifacients. Abortion advocates have been tirelessly pushing legislation to mandate such provision and prescriptions, and this language appears to be tailored to that drive to remove ethical choices from healthcare professionals.
Read the complete analysis here

Friday, February 18, 2011

CMA physicians, former HHS Asst. Secretary decry Obama administration's regulatory action on conscience and discrimination

The 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) today protested the decision of the Obama administration to weaken the only federal regulation protecting the exercise of conscience in health care.
Dr. J. Scott Ries, a board-certified family physician and CMA's vice president for Campus & Community Ministries, said, "The administration has made changes in a vital civil rights regulation without evidence or justification. The administration presented no evidence of any problems in healthcare access, prescriptions or procedures that have occurred in the two years since the original regulation's enactment that would justify any change in this protective regulation.
"The administration, for example, contends that a rule change is necessary to protect access to contraception, but absolutely no evidence is presented to justify any such concern. In the process, the administration blatantly ignores the scientific evidence that certain controversial prescriptions that abortion advocates promote as contraception are actually potential abortifacients, ending the life of a living, developing human embryo. This is a critical concern for pro-life patients, healthcare professionals and institutions."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated in 2008 in its final rule, "We have found no evidence that these regulations will create new barriers in accessing contraception unless those contraceptives are currently delivered over the religious or moral objections of the provider in such programs or research activities."
Dr. Ries added, "The Obama administration's regulatory action today diminishes the civil rights that protect conscientious physicians and other healthcare professionals against discrimination. Any weakening of protections against discrimination against life-affirming healthcare professionals ultimately threatens to severely worsen patient access to health care.
"Losing conscientious healthcare professionals and faith-based institutions to discrimination and job loss especially imperils the poor and patients in medically underserved areas. We are already facing critical shortages of primary care physicians, and the Obama administration's decision now threatens to make the situation far worse for patients across the country who depend on faith-based health care."
National survey results show that over nine of ten faith-based physicians, who are among the most likely to be serving the poor and those in medically underserved areas, indicate they would rather leave the profession if denied the ability to practice medicine according to conscientiously held ethical standards. Survey results also indicate that 20% of faith-based medical students say they are "not pursuing a career in Obstetrics or Gynecology" because of perceived discrimination and coercion in that field.
Dr. Ries added, "Stories told to me by medical students across the country indicate that the threat of being forced to participate in abortion procedures and violate their moral integrity is enough to steer them in the opposite direction. That means even fewer physicians for women in the future in this specialty that is already facing critical shortages.
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Joxel Garcia noted, "Especially in physician shortage states such as Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Delaware, losing just one physician can erase healthcare access for thousands of patients.
"Pushing conscientious physicians out of medicine is a signifiant step toward a healthcare system controlled by the state that moves away from the ethical roots of medicine. In the new governmental utilitarian model, the 'common good' defined by the state supersedes any moral, religious or ethical principle such as embodied in the Hippocratic oath, which has protected patients for millennia."
As the second-in-command under Sec. Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), Dr. Garcia oversaw the development and implementation of the conscience regulation and continues to work closely with the CMA and others to protect conscience rights. He currently serves as President and Dean at the Ponce School of Medicine & Health Sciences, where CMA provides a medical student ministry, as it does on over 90 percent of the nation's medical and dental school campuses.
Dr. Ries' clinical career has included faculty appointments at Indiana University School of Medicine and Butler University; he has also served as medical consultant to NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC network affiliates.

Contact your Rep. now to vote YES on Pence amendment to defund Planned Parenthood and reduce abortions

Urgent action alert
This morning, February 18, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on an amendment offered by Congressman Mike Pence (R-In.) that would deny all federal funds for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider in the U.S., reporting 324,008 abortions in 2008 alone. Abortions are a moneymaker for the billion-dollar business enterprise, reportedly accounting for a third of Planned Parenthood's income from its clinics. Incredibly enough, U.S. taxpayers provide another third of Planned Parenthood's income, thanks to their pro-abortion allies in Congress and the White House. Media reports indicate that the "pro-choice" Planned Parenthood has now mandated that all of its affiliates must do abortions.
What you can do now
Call or email your U.S. House member and urge a YES vote on the Pence Amendment Number 11 to H.R. 1 (the Continuing Resolution bill that would keep the government funded through Sep. 30). Just go to http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/ and click on the Action Alert.
The National Right to Life Committee provides more information on a letter on its web site. The letter includes a suggestion for a message you can deliver to the staff person who takes your call.
Thank you for taking a moment so that many more can live a  lifetime.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Contact your U.S. Rep.: vote YES on amendment Friday to protect conscience reg


On Friday the House is expected to vote on an amendment to the Continuing Resolution (the bill that keeps the government funded) that would prevent the Obama administration from getting rid of the only federal requlation protecting conscience rights in health care.
The Conscience Protection, Amendment #54, submitted by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) would prevent any funds made available under the Continuing Resolution from being used to rescind or otherwise alter the conscience protection regulation currently in effect. This regulation implements existing conscience laws and provides an opportunity for individuals who have been discriminated against to file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights. If the regulation is rescinded it will be more difficult for individuals to seek protection under existing conscience laws.
Click here to locate your Representative's web page, then use the Contact form on that page to send an email or place a phone call.
SAMPLE EMAIL of PHONE MESSAGE to your Representative:
Please vote YES on Friday on the Conscience Protection, Amendment #54, submitted by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA). This amendment to the Continuing Resolution would prevent funds from being used to get rid of the only federal regulation protecting conscience rights in health care. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rep. Fleming offers conscience-protecting amendment to House funding resolution

The House reconvened at 10 am. this morning to again take up consideration of HR 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR), which basically keeps the government going with funding apart from in-depth budgeting legislation. The CR contains a number of pro-life improvements including reinstating the ban on all taxpayer funding for elective abortion in the District of Columbia, reinstating the Mexico City Policy, eliminating funding for UNFPA, eliminating funding Title X and reducing funding for international population control and family planning funding. 
A couple important amendments that may be offered soon on the Continuing Resolution include:
Conscience Protection

I met recently with Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), a pro-life physician who is offering Amendment #54, which would prevent any funds made available under the CR from being used to rescind or otherwise alter the good conscience protection regulation currently in effect. This regulation implements three existing federal conscience laws and provide an opportunity for individuals experiencing discrimination to file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights. If the regulation is rescinded, it will be much more difficult for individuals to seek protection under existing conscience laws.
Planned Parenthood
I also met recently with Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), an impressive leader and person of faith who has introduced Amendment #11, which would prevent any funds made available under the CR from being provided to Planned Parenthood. The amendment states “None of the funds made available by this Act may be made available for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. or any of the following affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of American, Inc.” and lists all Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
Action: Urge your Representative to vote YES on these and other pro-life amendments to the Continuing Resolution.

Abortion, conscience bill progresses through U.S. House

I've been attending several highly contentious hearings and markup sessions on abortion-related bills in the House of Representatives. Thankfully, the House has dedicated several staff to a Pro-Life Caucus who do an excellent job tracking the details of legislation and providing informative updates. Here's the latest:

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 358, the “Protect Life Act” Tuesday by a vote of 33-19. Democrats Mike Ross (AR) and Jim Matheson (UT) and all Republicans on the Committee voted for passage of the bill. Several hostile amendments were offered, and Democrat Mike Ross (AR) joined all Republicans on the Committee to defeat each hostile amendment. Groups may wish to thank Members who voted pro-life for their votes in Committee.
H.R. 358, introduced by Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL), would prohibit funding for abortion and abortion coverage under P.L. 111-148, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA). The legislation also protects conscience rights for health care providers by specifying that Federal agencies and State or local governments funded by PPACA may not discriminate against health care entities that refuse to be involved in abortion.
The following amendments were offered during the markup today:
• Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) offered an amendment to the anti-mandate provision in the “Protect Life Act.” The DeGette amendment would have allowed PPACA to be used to mandate that health care providers facilitate abortion by providing certain information including where to obtain an abortion, what requirements are necessary to receive an abortion and information about insurance coverage for abortion. The DeGette amendment was defeated by a vote of 17-32.
• Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) offered an amendment to allow PPACA to override state conscience protections unless the state law is specific to abortion. Under the Schakowsky amendment state conscience protection laws related to other issues like the morning-after-pill could be preempted by PPACA. The Schakowsky amendment was defeated by a vote of 19-31.
• Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) offered an amendment to apply the conscience protections in H.R. 358 to abortion clinics and other abortion providers. If enacted, this amendment would have given abortion providers the right to sue government officials enforcing state and local laws regarding abortion, and would have a chilling effect on enforcement of pro-life laws. The Engel amendment was defeated by a vote of 19-31.
• Representative Anthony Weiner attempted to offer two amendments related to the constitutional authority statement accompanying the “Protect Life Act.” Both amendments were ruled nongermane.
Rep. Weiner, however, did win through his histrionics the unofficial award for the most boisterous opponent of the bill, exceeding the vituperation even of several of his radically pro-abortion female colleagues.
Much appreciated is the exemplary leadership of committee chair Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania (Lancaster area), who somehow managed to conduct the hearings with respect and dignity.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Congress demands HHS response to conscience threats

A letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, signed by 46 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, asks her to explain why her department is seeking to repeal conscience protections for health care workers in light of known attacks on such workers.
The letter from House members explains. "We strongly oppose any action that would undermine or eliminate the responsibility of HHS to enforce conscience laws that have been enacted by Congress for nearly four decades. The Implementing Regulations did not add to the substance of existing law, but required fund recipients to certify compliance with the law and more specifically committed HHS to enforce those laws as written."
Read full story...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Billion-dollar abortion business Planned Parenthood's tax dollars questioned by Congress, pro-life advocates

Yesterday a number of pro-life Members of Congress joined Lila Rose, President of Live Action, Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, and Kristan Hawkins, Executive Director of Students for Life of America to urge support for the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, H.R. 217. The bill would prevent your tax dollars from propping up billion-dollar abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which gets close to a third of its funding from the government.
As the national press has reported, Lila Rose (pictured at left) has presented a stunning undercover video showing Planned Parenthood staff willing to aid and abet child sex trafficking. A factsheet released in September indicates that the number of abortions provided by Planned Parenthood in 2008 increased to 324,008.
Click here for video of the press conference.

The following Members of Congress participated:
  • Rep. Mike Pence, Sponsor of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) Chair of the Pro-Life Women’s Caucus
  • Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
  • Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  • Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)
  • Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY)
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)
  • Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)
  • Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KA)
  • Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
You can help by urging your Member of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 217.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Protect Life Act to prevent tax funding of abortion generates heat in Hill hearing

I attended a contentious hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Wednesday on the Protect Life Act, H.R. 358. The bill amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to prevent federal funding for abortion or abortion coverage through the government-related exchanges, community health centers, the OPM administered plans, or any other program authorized or appropriated by the bill. The bill also provides conscience protections for healthcare professionals and institutions, by codifying the Hyde-Weldon provision to protect health care providers from being penalized by state and local governments or by the federal government for refusing to participate in providing abortions.
Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts was joined at the hearing by Reps. Burgess, Cassidy and Gingrey--all physicians--Blackburn, Guthrie, Latta, Myrick, McMorris Rodgers, T. Murphy, and Upton.
Minority party members of the committee attempted to portray bill supporters as extreme, and when that failed, to criticize the majority for not focusing on job creation. The bill was made necessary, however, by the failure of the previous Democrat-controlled Congress and President Obama to include a bona fide prohibition on taxpayer funding on abortion in the original healthcare reform bill, which occupied much of the previous Congress instead of job creation.
When all other arguments against the bill failed, Rep. Anthony Weiner (NY) resorted to histrionics, to the delight and laughter of his colleagues in the minority.
The Subcommittee heard from three well-informed witnesses: Douglas Johnson (written statement available here) of the National Right to Life Committee, Helen Alvare (written statement available here) from George Mason University School of Law and Sara Rosenbaum from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. My friend Doug Johnson and Ms. Alvare showed admirable forbearance and ably parried the thrusts of the pro-abortion Members who frequently interrupted them and refused to let them finish their answers. So besides highlighting the contrast in respect for the lives of the unborn, the hearing also highlighted the contrast between the civil and uncivil. Welcome to Washington.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

U.S. Member of Congress displays breathtaking ignorance on embryonic stem cell research

I attended a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday at which several friends and colleagues were testifying. Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Cathy Ruse of Family Research Council testified before the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, in favor of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
After the police cleared out demonstrators who inexplicably stood up wearing red headbands across their mouths (which they surely intended to symbolize something related to the hearing, but it was unclear exactly what), the hearing was progressing predictably on party lines until a Democrat Congressman, Mike Quigley (Il.-5th) decided to venture off the usual talking points.
Mr. Quigley pressed Richard Doerflinger about embryonic stem cell research. Trying to show why the U.S. government should not refrain from funding abortion simply because the Catholic Church opposes it, Mr. Quigley suggested that if the government adopted that approach, the government would have to stop funding all the cures for patients coming from embryonic stem cell research.

The question revealed, to the astonishment of many of us familiar with embryonic stem cell research, that Mr. Quigley thought such cures actually existed. They don't. As the video at left shows, Richard patiently explained (after Mr. Quigley repeated the question that it seemed he could not possibly have asked), embryonic stem cells are so volatile and unpredictable, forming cancers in animal studies, that it is highly unlikely that they would ever yield any actual help for patients whatsoever, much less cures for diseases.
The Congressman's ignorance of the truth about embryonic stem cell research illustrates the power of propaganda that grant-seeking researchers and their political allies have managed to foist not only on Members of Congress but on the American public as well. The propaganda is propping up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and private investments that could otherwise be accelerating the tremendous progress in stem cell research that doesn't destroy living embryonic human beings and is already producing cures and hope for patients worldwide.
Meanwhile, the witnesses at the hearing made a strong case for passing HR3, which would, as the House Pro-Life Caucus notes,
"establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding abortion and insurance coverage that includes abortion. The bill contains language to prevent funding through programs like Medicaid and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, as well as the tax credits established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
"Additional provisions apply the principles of the Hyde amendment to ensure that abortion is not given tax preferred status through flexible spending accounts and certain deductions. Since abortion is not health care, the U.S. tax code should not create tax incentives for abortion. [Note: H.R. 3 would not affect tax policies for employer-sponsored health insurance.]
"One section of the bill prohibiting taxpayer subsidized abortion coverage to abortion funding in the District of Columbia generated a small protest at the beginning of the hearing. Since Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says that Congress holds complete legislative authority over D.C. Congress has the authority to prevent all public funding for elective abortion in the District of Columbia. Congress authorized taxpayer funding for abortion in D.C. (as long as the funds were identified as “local” funds) for Fiscal Year 2010, and now, as confirmed by the Washington Post today, D.C. is using public funds for abortion."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Health care bills introduced in beginning of 112th Congress

Below is a sampling of the healthcare-related bills introduced at the beginning of the 112th Congress. You can read the full text of the bills below by searching http://thomas.loc.gov/ for the bill number (e.g., HR2, in which HR stands for House of Representatives).
  • Rep. Cantor (R-VA) – H.R. 2: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act – would repeal ObamaCare.
  • Rep. King (R-IA) – H.R. 141: To Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 – would repeal ObamaCare.
  • Rep. Mack (R-FL) – H.R. 145: To Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Related Health-Care Provisions – would repeal ObamaCare.
  • Rep. Poe (R-TX) – H.R. 154: Defund the Individual Mandate Act – would prohibit the use of any federal funds to implement or enforce any federal mandate to purchase health insurance.
  • Rep. Broun (R-GA) – H.R. 299: To Repeal To Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and for other purposes – would repeal ObamaCare, repeal the 7.5 percent threshold on the deduction for medical expenses, provide for increased funding for high-risk pools, allow individuals to acquire health insurance across State lines, and allow for the creation of association health plans.
  • Rep. Garrett (R-NJ) – H.R. 21: The Reclaiming Individual Liberty Act – would repeal the mandate included in ObamaCare that individuals purchase health insurance.
  • Rep. Graves (R-GA) – H.R. 127: To Deauthorize Appropriation of Funds to Carry Out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act – would deauthorize the appropriation of funds to carry out any of the provisions ObamaCare.
  • Rep. Fleming (R-LA) – H.R. 38: To Rescind Funds Appropriated to the Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 – would rescind any funds remaining of those appropriated for the implementation of ObamaCare.
  • Rep. Forbes (R-VA) – H.R. 334: The Prevent IRS Overreach Act of 2011 – would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from hiring new employees to enforce the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
  • Rep. Lungren (R-CA) – H.R. 4: The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011 – would repeal section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires every corporation to file a 1099 form for each payment of over $600 made to individuals or corporations.
  • Rep. Scalise (R-LA) – H.R. 60: To Repeal the Expansion of Information Reporting Requirements for Payments of $600 or More to Corporations – would repeal section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires every corporation to file a 1099 form for each payment of over $600 made to individuals or corporations.
  • Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) – H.R. 371: Health Care Choice Act of 2011 – would repeal Title I of ObamaCare, which includes the health insurance provisions of the law. It also provides for the purchase of health insurance across state lines.
  • Rep. Burton (R-IN) – H.R. 105: The Empowering Patients First Act – is the reintroduction of the Republican Study Committee’s health care reform bill from the 111th Congress. Further information and short and extended summaries are available here.
  • Rep. Stearns (R-FL) – H.R. 171: The Health Care Tax Deduction Act of 2011 – would allow individuals to annually deduct the combined sum of all qualified health insurance costs and any unreimbursed prescription drug expense paid for by the individual for themselves or their spouse and dependents.
  • Rep. Pearce (R-NM) – H.R. 346: Health Care Choice Act of 2011 – would allow for the purchase of health insurance across state lines and provide a procedure for independent external appeals.
  • Rep. Austria (R-OH) – H.R. 369: The Health Savings and Affordability Act of 2011 – would allow individuals to annually deduct the combined sum of all qualified health insurance costs. It would also grant an increase in health savings account (HSA) contribution limits and allow both spouses to make catch-up contributions to an HSA.
  • Rep. Thornberry (R-TX) – H.R. 314: The Medical Liability Procedural Reform Act of 2011 – would provide grants to several states for the development, implementation, and evaluation of health care tribunals. A health care tribunal is a trial court or administrative tribunal whose sole function is to adjudicate disputes over injuries allegedly caused by health care providers. The judges for such a tribunal have health care expertise and rely on independent expert witnesses.
  • Rep. Thornberry (R-TX) – H.R. 315: The Health Care Paperwork Reduction and Fraud Prevention Act – would reduce the amount of paperwork and improve payment policies for health care services, and prevent fraud and abuse through health care provider education. It would establish a National Bipartisan Commission on Billing Codes and Forms Simplification, create a simple process for physicians and providers to receive assistance with questionable codes and procedures, and reforms the implementation process for new evaluation and management guidelines under the Medicare program and the treatment of physician overpayments by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) – H.R. 103: The Health Care Choices for Seniors Act – would allow seniors to choose their HSA over Medicare without penalty. The bill splits the connection between Social Security and Medicare, provides a voucher for those that opt-out of Medicare in return for their years of paying Medicare payroll taxes, and would allow individuals to continue tax-free contributions to their HSA. Additionally, the bill would delay enrollment penalties until age 70 to allow seniors more flexibility to keep their HSA after age 65.
  • Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) – H.R. 234: The Savings for Seniors Act of 2011 – would prohibit Congress from spending Social Security surpluses and form a bipartisan commission to consider the best use of those funds. Social Security tax receipts that are not used to pay current Social Security expenses would be placed in an off-budget account and remain there until Congress passed legislation that approves an investment vehicle for the funds. This would serve to prevent Social Security surpluses from being invested in the obligations of the Federal government.

Pro-life bills introduced in Congress - a quick summary

Here's a quick summary of key pro-life bills introduced in the House of Representatives in this new 112th Congress that relate to health care, conscience rights, abortion and human cloning.
You can read the full text of the bills below by searching http://thomas.loc.gov/  for the bill number (e.g., HR2, in which HR stands for House of Representatives). The bill title and number are followed by the legislator who introduced the legislation.
Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R.2) ( Rep. Cantor, Eric [VA-7]) - repeals the Democrats' healthcare reform law passed in 2010. Physician lawmakers, including a number newly elected to Congress, helped pass this repeal bill on Jan. 19, largely along party lines. While prospects for Senate passage of the House repeal bill at this time appear unlikely, Senate procedural rules could be employed to force a vote, putting senators on record on the highly controversial law. Meanwhile, over half the states are now challenging the law in court.
No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 3) ( Rep. Smith, Christopher [NJ-4]) -
  • No tax subsidy: "No funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are authorized or appropriated by Federal law, shall be expended for any abortion. No health care service furnished--(1) by or in a health care facility owned or operated by the Federal Government; or (2) by any physician or other individual employed by the Federal Government to provide health care services within the scope of the physician's or individual's employment, may include abortion.
  • No discrimination: "A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance (either directly or indirectly), may not subject any individual or institutional health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."
Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (HR 217) ( Rep. Pence, Mike [IN-6]) - prohibits family planning grants from being awarded to any entity that performs abortions: "The [HHS] Secretary shall not provide any assistance under this title to an entity unless the entity certifies that, during the period of such assistance, the entity will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion."

Protect Life Act (HR 358) ) Rep. Pitts, Joseph R. [PA-16]) - amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Democrats' healthcare reform bill passed in 2010) to provide:
  • No abortion requirement: "Nothing in this Act … shall be construed to require any health plan to provide coverage of or access to abortion services or to allow the [HHS] Secretary or any other Federal or non-Federal person or entity in implementing this Act (or amendment) to require coverage of, access to, or training in abortion services."
  • No discrimination: "A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), may not subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination … on the basis that the health care entity refuses to--(A) undergo training in the performance of induced abortions;(B) require or provide such training;(C) perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions; or (D) provide referrals for such training or such abortions."
Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (HR 361) ( Rep. Fleming, John [LA-4]) - would amend the Public Health Service Act to prohibit certain abortion-related discrimination in governmental activities, including if a healthcare "entity" (including professionals) refuses: "to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions; to require or provide such training; to perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions; or to provide referrals for such training or such abortions."
Patients First Act (awaiting introduction; previously H.R.877) - would "(1) intensify research that may result in improved understanding of or treatments for diseases and other adverse health conditions; (2) promote research and human clinical trials using stem cells that are ethically obtained and show evidence of providing clinical benefit for human patients; and (3) promote the derivation of pluripotent stem cell lines without the creation of human embryos for research purposes and without the destruction or discarding of, or risk of injury to, a human embryo."
Human Cloning Prohibition Act (awaiting introduction; previously H.R.1050) - Unlike phony "bans" that actually allow creating a human clone and then mandate the embryo's destruction after two weeks of life, this pro-life bill defines `human cloning' as "human asexual reproduction, accomplished by introducing the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nucleus has been removed or inactivated to produce a living organism (at any stage of development) with a human or predominantly human genetic constitution. The bill would make it "unlawful for any person or entity, public or private, in or affecting interstate commerce to perform or attempt to perform human cloning; to participate in an attempt to perform human cloning; or to ship or receive the product of human cloning for any purpose."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Incredibly blaming taxpayers for Gosnell abortion mill's concentration camp inhumanity

Confronted with the horrors of live babies killed with concentration camp inhumanity and of women who suffered and died in a filthy abortion facility described as "a bad gas station restroom," the executive director of the Women's Medical Fund incredibly responds in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece by blaming Dr. Kermit Gosnell's abortion butchery on taxpayers' opposition to funding abortion.
It seems inconceivable that abortion advocates could remain so fixated on their ideological agenda that they can no longer feel the instinctive human revulsion at the unconscionable abuse of human life displayed in this case.
As Karen Heller righly observed in her Jan. 26 Inquirer column, "People on both sides of the abortion debate should have been outraged by what was happening."
This case provides a teachable moment for us all to better comprehend the palpable horror of abortion and a legislative moment to address a corrupt regulatory system. That scandalously politicized system has allowed butchers like Dr. Gosnell to take the lives not only of babies but also of their mothers, with impunity. Those who choose to obscure or deny the reality of abortion clinics and stand in the way of reform will find themselves out of step with Pennsylvanians and most of humanity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Deploring "women as commodities," "Eggsploitation" wins documentary award

My colleague Jennifer Lahl's documentary, "Eggsploitation" this week was named Best Documentary in the 2011 California Independent Film Festival Slate Awards. The film exposes how women are being exploited commercially and harmed physically in order to obtain their eggs for use in reproductive technology related to infertility. Human cloning also uses women's eggs, and a ridiculous number of eggs (and the corresponding number of exploited and harmed women) would be required to get anywhere near the imagined therapies supposedly arising from human cloning. From the news release:
Jennifer Lahl, President of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network and writer, director, and producer of Eggsploitation said, "We are thrilled to have been named Best Documentary by the California Independent Film Festival. California has been referred to as the 'reproductive tourism capital of the world' so it's fitting that a film drawing attention to the issue of egg donation and the health risks to young women would be so honored."
Eggsploitation profiles three highly educated young women—Calla, Alexandra, and Sindy—who suffered extreme health consequences related to their egg "donation." Dangerous health complications can occur during the egg donation process as a result of taking high doses of fertility drugs, during the egg retrieval surgery, or both. Their disturbing testimonies about their experience with egg donation are a wake-up call regarding a highly unregulated, multi-billion-dollar industry that jeopardizes the health of young women.
The film has received international attention, with sales and showings in more than 15 countries. In addition, Eggsploitation is making a big push on university campuses across the United States, where egg donation ads heavily target young women. This spring, Eggsploitation is scheduled to show at Columbia, Fordham, Yale, and Notre Dame law schools, as well as at Loyola-Marymount, Boston College, and many more.
For more information about the film and the issue of egg donation, and to view the trailer and clips from the film, visit www.eggsploitation.com.