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Congress debates abortion funding in COVID relief

February 12, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Members of Congress on Thursday debated abortion funding restrictions in a proposed COVID relief package, with one member comparing abortion coverage to cancer treatments.


“Abortion is health care, and excluding abortion from COBRA coverage makes as little sense as excluding cancer coverage,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said of an amendment to bar funding of abortion coverage in health coverage subsidies for unemployed workers.


In response, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, tweeted that “[r]eal healthcare in the case of a difficult pregnancy looks like addressing the illness of the mother or unborn child; not eliminating the child. Real doctors heal; they don’t harm.”


Several House committees convened on Thursday to consider and advance measures for a massive COVID-19 relief package. President Biden had proposed nearly $2 trillion in funding of health care and economic relief in response to the pandemic.


Democratic leadership have already signaled that they will pass a coronavirus relief bill with or without Republican support in the House and Senate. Pro-life groups have warned that the relief proposals do not include sufficient pro-life protections—and thus could fund abortions, abortion coverage, and abortion providers in a number of ways.


The House Democrats’ proposal released this week includes $750 million in funding of global health, and billions of dollars for community health centers. It also includes expanded subsidies towards health plans and COBRA coverage.


Within the committee hearings themselves, members debated the ethics of abortion funding.


In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, members discussed the $50 million in additional funding of the Title X family planning program. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment redirecting the funding to youth suicide prevention, as the Title X funds could go to abortion providers.


The Trump administration in 2019 required Title X grant recipients to neither refer for abortions, nor be co-located with abortion facilities. This resulted in Planned Parenthood withdrawing from the program and forfeiting an estimated $60 million in annual funds, rather than comply with the new mandates.


President Biden has already begun the process of reversing that rule, and some Republicans on the committee thus did not want additional funding of Title X if abortion providers would benefit from the program.


“We know that Title X has been used to fund abortion providers,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) stated.


However, committee Democrats accused Republicans of being anti-contraception and hurting women’s health.


Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) defended the access of abortion providers—such as Planned Parenthood—to the Title X program. “For many women, the only doctor they see in a year is someone who works at Planned Parenthood or at another clinic that gets Title X funds,” she said on Thursday.


Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a Chaldean Catholic, also opposed the pro-life requirements for the Title X program and said it is about family planning, not abortion.


Eshoo said she often asks new committee members about their families. “I don’t know one member of our committee that has 8, 10, 12, 14 children,” she said. “This isn’t about abortion. This is about family planning.”


Rep. Lesko said that for many pro-life members, their beliefs on life are “part of our faith” and “ingrained in us.”


“So when you say that we’re attacking women, I totally disagree. Because half of the babies that are aborted are going to be women,” she said to fellow members. Lesko’s amendment failed in a 31-26 vote.


During a markup of COVID relief in the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment to ensure protections against funding of abortions in health coverage.


The relief measure would fund COBRA health insurance premiums for unemployed workers, and Walorski’s amendment would have ensured that federal subsidies could not pay for abortion coverage.


“I believe every human life is precious, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the destruction of life,” Walorski said on Thursday. Her amendment failed in committee.


Rep. Chu opposed Walorski’s effort and compared funding abortion coverage with funding coverage for cancer treatments.


In a hearing of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) responded to accusations that pro-life members were just trying to “score cheap political points” with their amendments.


“We hold sincere beliefs that life is sacred from the point of conception to natural death, and we truly believe that violating that moral code is a stain on our entire society and our entire world,” Foxx said.


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Why pro-lifers should be concerned with Biden’s OMB nominee

February 11, 2021 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that pro-lifers should be concerned about President Biden’s pick for the position.


Neera Tanden, the CEO and president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, was nominated by President Biden in December to be the next OMB director. If confirmed by the Senate, Tanden will have a critical role at the White House in ensuring the success of the administration’s policies.


“It is certainly one that should trouble pro-lifers, from the standpoint of the policy agenda that she’ll be asked to articulate,” said Russ Vought, former director of OMB from July, 2020 to January, 2021, of Tanden’s nomination to the post. Vought was interviewed by EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in a segment that will air Thursday night.


The position of OMB director is a critical one, Vought explained. Tanden, if confirmed, would be tasked with seeing that Biden’s “policies are reflected throughout the federal government.”


“You’re really the nerve center, from the federal government’s perspective, to be able to put a high-level policy position into effect. And to make sure that the bureaucracy, quite frankly, isn’t going in a different direction,” Vought said on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.


President Biden has already stated that it is the “policy” of his administration to promote “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” in a Jan. 28 memorandum that allowed for taxpayer funding of international pro-abortion groups. That language is commonly interpreted by international groups, including the United Nations, to refer to abortion and contraception.


At her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Tanden reaffirmed President Biden’s opposition to the Hyde Amendment; the policy bars federal funding of elective abortions. When asked by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) if she would push to preserve the Hyde Amendment in future presidential budget requests, Tanden would not say.


Biden has also stated that his administration’s “policy” will be to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” in a Jan. 21 order redefining sex discrimination to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal experts told CNA that his order would have broad implications and would ignite many conflicts over religious freedom.


A president’s choice of an OMB director is reflective of his thinking, Vought said, wanting someone who “consistent with his ideology” in the position.


Tanden has previously served as president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. During her tenure, the organization fought religious freedom protections for groups opposed to same-sex marriage. The think tank sought to redefine religious freedom to include LGBT “equality” and “reproductive rights,” and has also promoted figures who are seeking to split Christianity over LGBT issues.


Tanden has also been a strong supporter of the HHS contraceptive mandate, using contraception as an issue to divide and marginalize abortion opponents.


During her confirmation hearings this week, Tanden was pressed by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) over a 2012 article where she called the mandate a successful “cudgel” used to cast opponents of contraception as “extreme.”


Tanden initially did not apologize for her words, saying instead that “for anyone offended by my language, you know, I feel badly about that.” Tanden later apologized for her comments contributing to polarization.


Tanden has also supported abortion during her tenure at CAP. She called efforts to defund Planned Parenthood “partisan attacks on women’s access to critical health services”; she lauded the Supreme Court’s 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision that struck down Texas restrictions on abortion clinics; and she praised former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards as someone who has “fought tirelessly to improve women’s access to abortion.”


Vought served as acting OMB director from Jan., 2019, until July, 2020, when he was officially confirmed in the position by the Senate.


He said that, during his time in the office, he was able to help enact policies such as the Protect Life Rule which required recipients of federal Title X grants to not be co-located with an abortion facility. He also claimed credit for the administration stopping federally-funded research with fetal tissue at NIH facilities.  


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Presidential Inaugural Committee facilitates donations to Planned Parenthood

January 19, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- The Presidential Inaugural Committee is facilitating donations to Planned Parenthood, encouraging supporters to sponsor American flags on the National Mall in the name of unity.


Through the committee’s “America United” program around the Jan. 20 Presidential Inauguration, supporters of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are encouraged to become a “symbolic sponsor” of the “Field of Flags” on the National Mall; they can do so by donating to a number of groups including Planned Parenthood.


“At a time when Americans cannot gather together in person for the inauguration, the PIC will install an extensive public art display on the National Mall that will include approximately 191,500 U.S. flags of varying sizes, including flags representing every state and territory, and 56 pillars of light,” the committee stated in a Jan. 11 announcement. 


The hundreds of thousands of flags “will represent the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, DC,” the committee stated, encouraging supporters “to become a symbolic sponsor of the Field of Flags in exchange for a donation to PIC’s partners in service.”



Here’s your first glimpse of what the #NationalMall will look like for Wednesday’s Inauguration of @joebiden: a sea of 200k US flags and state/territory flags. “All of it to show the American people that we’re thinking about them in this time” – @moojv77. More on @cbsthismorning

— Nancy Cordes (@nancycordes) January 18, 2021



On the donation page for the Field of Flags, among the 95 groups listed as “partners” of the committee is the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


Among the other 95 “partner groups” of the committee are a number of pro-LGBT groups including the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.


At the bottom of the donation site of ActBlue Charities, a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the Democratic fundraising site ActBlue, users are informed that they will receive emails from Planned Parenthood.


“You’ll receive emails from Planned Parenthood organizations. You may unsubscribe at any time,” the site reads.


The committee had announced the “America United” program as an effort that “reflects the Biden-Harris commitment to healing the nation and bringing Americans together.”


Planned Parenthood supported the Biden-Harris ticket, and expressed jubilation over the selection of Harris as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in August.


In August, Planned Parenthood Action spent five figures on an online video ad hailing Harris as “OUR Reproductive Health Champion.” The group Planned Parenthood Votes also released a fact-sheet “Nine Reasons to Love Kamala Harris.”


As a 501(c)4 organization, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is considered a non-profit under tax law; such organizations can engage in certain political  advocacy, such as endorsing political candidates, that 501(c)3 charitable organizations cannot engage in.


The “America United” program of the inauguration committee cited the need for unity amid “unprecedented crisis and deep divisions,” including more than 370,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic hardships, and “political divisions.”