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The Point Washington Update - May 2012

In this edition:

  • House votes on sex-selection abortions
  • Anti-discrimination measures add protections
  • Lawmakers mull HHS mandate

Article #1
Excerpted from "U.S. House to vote on curbing 'war on baby girls' National Right to Life news release, May 25, 2012: The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation’s largest pro-life organization, is calling on members of the U.S. House of Representatives to go on record against “the escalating war on baby girls,” by voting to pass a national ban on sex-selection abortions when the bill reaches the House floor on
Thursday, May 31.

The legislation is a recently revised version of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) (H.R. 3541), sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.). The House will consider the bill on the “Suspension Calendar,” which means that a two-thirds vote will be required for passage.

In a letter being sent to House members, NRLC quotes the recent observation of political economist Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute: “In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.” NRLC also cites studies that indicate the practice is also becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S., particularly within communities of immigrants from Asia.

The bill would make it an offense, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, to knowingly do any one of the following four things: (1) perform an abortion “knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of the child”; (2) use “force or threat of force. . . for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection abortion”; (3) solicit or accept funds to perform a sex-selection abortion; or (4) transport a woman into the U.S. or across state lines for this purpose. However, “A woman upon whom a sex-selection abortion is performed may not be prosecuted or held civilly liable for any violation ....”

NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson commented, “Those lawmakers who recently have embraced contrived political rhetoric asserting that they are resisting a ‘war on women’ must reflect on whether they now wish to be recorded as being defenders of the escalating war on baby girls.”

Commentary #1
Rep. Trent Franks (AZ-02): "Sex selection abortion has now left the human family on earth with 200 million missing baby girls. It has been a primary enforcement mechanism for China's forced abortion and 'one child' policy for many years, it has dramatically increased sex trafficking and violence against women due to the imbalanced sex ratios left in its wake across the world, and we know now that it is a tragic circumstance into which many women are being coerced.

"Sex selection abortion is extreme violence against both unborn baby girls and their mothers. This evil practice has now allowed thousands of little girls in America, and millions of little girls across the world, to be brutally dismembered, most of them in the second or third trimesters, when they are capable of feeling extreme pain, simply because they were little girls instead of instead of little boys. Sex selection abortion is true 'Violence Against Women.' And it is the truest kind of 'War on Women.' And it has now brought humanity to a place where the three deadliest words on this earth are… 'It's a girl.'

"A number of academic papers have now published evidence that the practice of sex-selection abortion is demonstrably increasing here in the United States. In 2007, the United States spearheaded a U.N. resolution to condemn sex-selection abortion worldwide, yet, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are the only advanced country left in the world that still doesn't restrict sex-selection abortion in any way.

"I know this Congress deals with many controversial issues where it is sometimes difficult for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground, but I refuse to believe that we cannot find enough common humanity in the United States Congress to conclude together that it is wrong to knowingly kill unborn children because they are because they are baby girls instead of baby boys."

Article #2
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has developed a policy document in response to protests by CMA and other faith-based groups that federal AIDS grants requirements were disqualifying faith-based groups on the basis of conscience objections, despite anti-discrimination provisions in federal law. The President's Emergency Program For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) legislation (the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008) provides for conscience protections.

Catholic groups were being particularly penalized by requirements related to contraceptives, even though Catholic ministries provide other valuable and extensive services to AIDS patients around the world and offer the type of trusted network that is critical for patient education and behavior change.

As a result of meetings with faith-based organization representatives and administration officials, the following Acquisition & Assistance Policy Directive (AAPD), including a Conscience Clause Implementation, was developed at USAID to comply with the law. Here's a summary from the document of what it includes:

A. Provides contract clauses and assistance provisions to be included in contracts, grants and cooperative agreements that obligate or intend to obligate (in the case of solicitations) FY04-FY13 funds made available for HIV/AIDS activities, regardless of the program account, including:
  1. Conscience Clause Implementation (previously titled ?Organizations Eligible for Assistance);
    • Condoms; and
      • Prohibitions on Promotion or Advocacy of the Legalization or Practice of Prostitution or Sex Trafficking.
B. Replaces all previous versions of the contract clause and assistance provision titled ?Organizations Eligible for Assistance with the revised versions in Attachments A through C, titled ?Conscience Clause Implementation?;

C. Provides guidance to Contracting Officers (COs) and Agreement Officers (AOs) regarding what actions to take if an organization raises a Conscience Clause objection.

Commentary #2
CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody "Some months ago, I joined a few faith-based organization representatives to meet with President Obama's AIDS ambassador, Dr. Eric Goosby, who heads up the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), originally an initiative of the Bush administration. The meeting was both friendly and candid. I raised the issue of discrimination on the basis of faith and conscience, and my colleagues in the meeting corroborated the concern. As a result of that meeting and others, administration officials developed the above policy to address problems.

"Meanwhile, other faith-based groups, along with sympathetic lawmakers, also worked hard behind the scenes in Washington to make sure the administration doesn't base grants for international aid on its political agenda, notably related to LGBT issues. President Obama recently issued a Presidential Memorandum directing that U.S. 'agencies engaged abroad should strengthen the work they have begun and initiate additional efforts in these multilateral fora and organizations to: counter discrimination on the basis of LGBT status; broaden the number of countries willing to support and defend LGBT issues in the multilateral arena; strengthen the role of civil society advocates on behalf of LGBT issues within and through multilateral fora; and strengthen the policies and programming of multilateral institutions on LGBT issues.'

"Earlier this month, staff of Representative Kay Granger, Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Ranking Member Representative Nita Lowey were able to come to agreement on the following language to be added to pending legislation (Manager's Amendment):

"Faith-Based organizations. - - The Committee notes the important role that faith-based organizations (FBOs) play in the delivery of foreign assistance and expects USAID to ensure compliance with existing Federal laws protecting the rights of FBOs, including rights related to employment practices, from discrimination in competing for and administering projects funded with United States foreign assistance.

"Much credit for the LGBT-related conscience protection effort goes to the staff of Representative Trent Franks, notably Stephanie Hammond."

Read the full USAID document
Read a Catholic News Service story

 

Article #3
Excerpted from "Lawsuits Challenging Contraception Rule Get Little Play," Roll Call, May 23, 2012: Republican leaders might be trying to avoid getting re-entangled in the culture wars, but Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt said on Tuesday that he is considering intervening in a legal challenge to a proposed federal contraception rule brought by Catholic organizations.

The Missouri Republican — who is presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s liaison to Congress — said he is looking into joining the challenge to the rule, which requires religiously affiliated hospitals and other institutions, excluding churches, to provide employee health insurance that includes access to contraception.

On Monday, May 21, 2012, 43 Catholic, 43 Catholic dioceses and other religious organizations filed challenges to the rule in all 11 circuits of the federal judicial system, claiming the law violates the Constitution’s religious freedom protections.

The lack of leadership engagement on the contraception issue is not entirely surprising, given the difficulties the party has had with Democrats’ recent accusations that the GOP is engaging in a “war on women.”

So far, Democrats don’t seem particularly interested in rehashing the issue either, with Democratic leaders remaining mum. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who in February called GOP opposition to the rule a “vicious political attack” on women, dismissed the most recent lawsuit out of hand. Still, Blunt predicted the fight is far from over. Noting that all of the circuit courts are facing decisions on the rule’s constitutionality, he predicted the matter would quickly make it to the Supreme Court. “This is not an issue that’s going to go away. ... It’s about religious freedom,” Blunt said. “I’m a Protestant. I don’t have any problem with contraception. I have a problem with the government forcing people who do think it’s wrong participating in it in some way.”

Commentary #3
Former Florida Rep. Dave Weldon, MD: “Conscience protections are essential for healthcare professionals, whether on abortion, contraception or other directives that the Administration would attempt to mandate under Obamacare. The latest round of lawsuits by the Catholic church challenging the Administration shows the necessity of vigilantly addressing religious discrimination.

“Conscience protections have been on the books for more than 35 years protecting conscience rights for healthcare professionals, especially with regard to abortion. The Church Amendments in the 1970s were passed to protect healthcare professionals with respect to abortion and 'any item or service' they have moral or religious objections to, under certain federally funded programs. In the 1990s, Congress needed to pass an amendment by Senator Dan Coats to prevent government discrimination in federally funded residency programs.

“As I was serving in Congress, we saw such discrimination on the rise, so I authored, and Congress passed in 2004, what became known as the Hyde/Weldon amendment. My amendment protects healthcare professionals from discrimination or coercion regarding abortion in any federally funded health program. Clearly Obamacare usurps those laws by mandating health plans, including religious employer plans, coverage of abortifacients, contraception and sterilization. Congress needs to act to defend conscience rights once again.

“The Administration’s so-called accommodation for religious employers is not an accommodation at all. In fact, it actually attempts to define what a church is in a very narrow and crude manner, by excluding all religious employers but churches. This is an unprecedented federal attack on religious freedom and practice, one that must be repealed.

“The American people should not be told to check their religion and leave it behind the church house doors. Most Americans believe the federal government should not discriminate against those who object to abortion on grounds of conscience. If Congress fails to act, it will have turned its back on the very essence of our founding—religious freedom.”