by J. Margaret Datiles
Former AUL Staff Counsel
During the 110th Congress, at least 97 bills and resolutions were considered in the areas of abortion, contraception, stem-cell research and cloning, artificial reproductive technologies, genetic counseling, healthcare rights of conscience, and the end-of-life.
Significantly, all existing pro-life appropriations provisions or “riders” (prohibiting or limiting the use of public funds and facilities for abortion and contraception domestically and abroad) were preserved in the First Session of the 110th Congress. These pro-life riders include the Hyde Amendment (prohibiting federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother), the Mexico City Policy (prohibiting appropriation of U.S. family planning funds to foreign organizations that promote and perform abortion as a method of family planning) and the Kemp-Kasten Amendment (prohibiting federal funding of organizations that support or participate in the management of a coercive abortion program).
With the close of the 110th Congress and an Obama Administration fast-approaching, it is evident that existing pro-life policies are in danger of being overturned and that the challenges of enacting pro-life policies in the future will be intensified. For example, President-elect Obama has promised that his first act as president will be to sign Senator Boxer’s radical Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would invalidate hundreds of common sense abortion regulations supported by the majority of Americans.
In addition to FOCA, we can expect to see other vigorous attacks on existing pro-life policies and efforts to enshrine abortion-on-demand in America. For example, all existing pro-life appropriations bill “riders” such as the Mexico City Policy and Hyde Amendment will be in danger of invalidation. There will be increased support for international policies to expand access to abortion and pro-abortion forces will push for the ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which has been interpreted as condemning any abortion restriction as “discrimination.”
We can also expect greater efforts to legalize over-the-counter access of the morning-after pill for minors, a sharp increase in Title X funding for abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, attacks on conscience protections issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the introduction of legislation that targets and imposes burdensome requirements on pregnancy resource centers.
An examination of both pro-life and anti-life measures introduced in the 110th Congress sets the stage for what we might see in the next Congress.
Abortion and Contraception
At least 65 abortion- and contraception-related bills and resolutions were considered by the 110th Congress. Notable pro-life bills considered by the 110th Congress included the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, which would prohibit discrimination against the unborn on the basis of sex or race and prohibit knowingly performing or financing race- or sex-selection abortion. Another significant pro-life measure was the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), which would prohibit the illegal transportation of minors across state lines in order to circumvent abortion parental notification laws in a minor’s home state.
Notable anti-life bills included FOCA, which declared the “right” to abortion as a “fundamental right,” and prohibited the government from “denying or interfering” with a woman’s “right to choose,” thus wiping out all existing state and federal abortion regulations and prohibiting similar laws from being enacted in the future.
Other significant bills that posed threats to the sanctity of life included Senate Amendment 2719, which would have overturned the Mexico City Policy to allow U.S. family planning funds to flow freely to foreign organizations that promote and perform abortion as a method of family planning. Providing federal funds for abortion internationally underscored numerous anti-life bills.
At least 23 measures relating to stem cell research, cloning, in-vitro fertilization, and prenatal genetic counseling were considered by the 110th Congress. Notable pro-life bills included the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits employers and health insurers from discriminating against persons on the basis of their genetic information. GINA was signed into law on May 21, 2008. Another significant pro-life bill was the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, which requires physicians to provide expectant mothers and families with scientifically sound information on prenatally and postnatally diagnosed conditions and support services. Co-sponsored by Senators Brownback (R) and Kennedy (D), this measure received overwhelming bi-partisan support and was signed into law this October.
Notable anti-life bills included Senate Bill 5, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which would have allowing federal funding for destructive research on human embryonic stem cells. The measure was vetoed by President Bush.
At least five measures relating to end-of-life issues were considered by the 110th Congress. Notably, the Suzanne Gonzales Suicide Prevention Act of 2007 would have prohibited the use of interstate commerce, or any facility of interstate commerce, to teach a person how to commit suicide or to provide a person with resources to commit suicide. In addition, at least four bills involved the creation and use of advanced medical directives.
Rights of Conscience and Miscellaneous
The 110th Congress was successful in advancing the cause for life, as all pro-life “riders” were retained and numerous pro-life measures were considered. This demonstrates Congress’ recognition of the importance and efficacy of incremental protective legislation in the areas of abortion and other life-related issues. However, in the coming months we can expect increased attention to FOCA and other efforts to sweep away existing pro-life policies and prevent the future passage of similar laws.