As 2011 draws to a close, it is worthwhile to pause and reflect upon the many victories gained in the protection of all human life. It is through the accumulation of these victories that we draw ever closer to our goal: a country where every human being is welcomed in life and protected in law.
2011 brought an explosion of life-affirming laws enacted in the States. Forty-seven states considered more than 460 bills to protect women and their unborn children. State legislatures enacted more than 70 life-affirming, abortion-related measures, and Americans United for Life was instrumental in the passage of 28 laws protecting life.
On the federal level, 2011 witnessed a new vitality in Congressional efforts to protect life, including legislation introduced to address the anti-life provisions of the health care law and to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.
In January 2011, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the anti-life Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Although repeal efforts failed in the Senate, the House passed the Protect Life Act this Fall by strong bi-partisan vote. The Protect Life amends the PPACA by prohibiting the federal government from requiring private insurance companies to cover abortion, ensures that no health care reform funds are used to pay for abortion, and protects health care providers from discrimination for refusal to participate in abortion. This legislation is necessary because the PPACA bypassed the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions by “self-appropriating” its funding.
This year also witnessed an increase in Congressional efforts to protect the American taxpayer from supporting abortion. Consistent with longstanding federal law and policy—and the overwhelming majority of Americans who oppose the use of their tax dollars to support abortion—Congress introduced the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act. This Act, which the House passed with bi-partisan support earlier this year, establishes a permanent, government-wide prohibition on the use of federal taxpayer funding for elective abortions and the subsidization of insurance coverage for elective abortions.
The debate over ending the taxpayer-funded stream of money—over $363 million dollars a year—to Planned Parenthood accelerated this year. For the first time in history, the House voted twice to cut federal funding to the nation’s largest abortion provider. Although the Senate failed to pass either measure, a victory was gained through the budget agreement forged by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), which forced the Senate to debate the issue and to have an up-or-down vote on whether an organization whose fraud and abuse are well-documented should continue to thrive at the American taxpayers’ expense. These victories underscore that Planned Parenthood is increasingly being recognized for what it is: an abortion-centric business that sacrifices the very well-being and health of women at the expense of the American taxpayer.
The launching of the first ever Congressional Investigation of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates by the Energy and Commerce Committee – to examine its “institutional practices and policies” and “handling of federal funding” – was an historic moment. The investigation, led by Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL), was spurred by growing evidence of abuse and fraud found within Planned Parenthood. The Congressional Investigation of Planned Parenthood signifies that Congress is taking seriously its obligation to ensure accountability for Americans’ tax dollars.
Another notable victory of 2011 was the reinstatement of the Dornan amendment in the 2011 appropriations bill. Also known as the D.C. Hyde amendment, this longstanding provision ensures that funds generated through federal taxes and those generated through local taxes are not used to destroy innocent human lives in the District of Columbia. Since 1996, the policy had been included in numerous appropriations bills supported by Members on both sides of the abortion debate and in both political parties. The policy was changed for the first time in the 2009 Appropriations bill; thus, Congress’ reinstatement of the Dornan amendment this year restored consistency with the longstanding policy that no taxpayer dollars may be used to support elective abortion.
As we prepare to celebrate Life this Christmas, let us remember to pause and reflect upon the important advances in the defense of Life from this past year. From Congress’ introduction of important, pro-life legislation to the historic votes held to protect life, from the first ever investigation of the nation’s largest abortion provider to the increase of life-affirming laws passed in the states, tangible pro-life gains were made. In thanksgiving for this year, let us rejoice in this year’s victories for life and appreciate the strong groundwork they provide for the opportunities 2012 presents for future success.