Legislative Roundup, 2001, United States

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It takes time for legislation to make its way through Congress, and of course with a new president taking office, there was a whole new set of policies and priorities. And to no one's surprise, the war in Afghanistan took over the attention of the government. Thus, little happened on other issues -- including life issues -- in 2001. This is disappointing but not particularly surprising.

The major things that did happen:

Among President Bushes first actions after taking office were several executive orders that restored policies that had been in effect under Presidents Reagan and Bush "the First", but were reversed by President Clinton. The most important of these was the "Mexico City Policy", which says that the United States government will not give tax money to organizations in other countries that perform abortions or campaign for pro-abortion laws.

In August the president issued an executive order banning the use of federal tax dollars for research involving new stem cells taken from the bodies of unborn babies. As the child must be killed to obtain the stem cells, this means that the federal government should no longer be involved in killing people so that their boby parts can be used for "medical research". He did allow funding for research using stem cells that had been grown from those already extracted from a baby, on the reasoning that the baby is already dead, and it is too late to do anything about that. This ban would also not apply to stem cells obtained from other sources, such as from adult samples or from umbilical cords.

In October the House held hearings on forced abortions in China. $25 million per year in U.S. tax money goes to the United Nations Fund for Population Assistance, which in turn gives money to the Chinese government’s “population control” programs. Pro-lifers managed to beat back an effort to increase this to $34 million, but were unsuccessful in reducing or eliminating it.

The Bush administration has determined that the “Hyde amendment”, which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions in most cases, applies to “morning after” pills. This should mean that Medicaid and other federal programs will not pay for RU-486. On the other hand, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has backed down from a pledge to conduct an investigation into questions about the safety of RU-486 to the mother. He now says that there will be no investigation unless evidence is found showing that there is a problem, i.e. the government will not look for problems until after it finds them.

Rep Melissa Hart (R-PA) tried to attach an amendment to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill (HR 3061) to deny federal funds to schools that give “morning after” abortion pills to children. Under pressure from Congressional leaders, she withdrew the amendment with the promise that she could introduce it as a separate bill later. A similar deal blocked both pro-abort and pro-life amendments in the Senate. In the Senate committee responsible for the HHS appropriations bill, the leading Democrat, Tom Harkin (D-IA), and the leading Republican, Arlen Specter (R-PA), both support federal funding of research that involves killing human embryos. Their version of the appropriations bill allows developing babies to be killed as long as they are “in excess of clinical need”. Meanwhile pro-life Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced amendments to ban cloning and the creation of embryos purely for research purposes. The Senate leadership convinced both sides to drop their amendments so that the non-controversial parts of the appropriations bill could be passed, but promised that they would allow these issues to be taken up later. If they keep their promise, this could result in a law banning cloning, or at least banning the creation of cloned human beings purely so that they can be killed and scavenged for parts, as the House has already passed such a bill.

In summary, there have been a number of efforts by the Senate, which is now basically controlled by pro-abortion forces, to weaken or eliminate the few pro-life laws on the books, or to increase government support for abortion. So far all have been beaten back. However, no new pro-life legislation has been passed either, though there have been some pro-life executive orders from the president. Thus, despite a pro-life president and House, the present situation is essentially a stalemate, except in those areas where the president can take action unilaterally.

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Posted 18 Jan 2002.

Copyright 2002 by Greene County Right to Life
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