Abortion Survivors: “Don’t Have a Conversation About Us Without Us”

From my latest post at DaTechGuy Blog:

President Trump invited abortion survivors to the White House on February 14 to tell him their own stories. Among the survivors was Melissa Ohden, whose 2017 book You Carried Me is an account of her remarkable life, a life she knows wasn’t supposed to happen.

From Ms. Ohden via Facebook:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It seems like the world is having a conversation about abortion, children surviving abortions, and they don’t realize or acknowledge that there are a group of people who know all too well what everyone is talking about. 

Don’t have a conversation about abortion without those who have survived it. Don’t have a conversation about us, without us. 

Listen to our voices. Share our stories. We’re not hypothetical cases. We’re human beings.

You can find my full post here. Thanks for reading.

The Mandate Takes a Hit. That’s Not Enough.

Nine months after taking office, five months after assuring the Little Sisters of the Poor that they could quit fearing fines, the Administration of President Donald Trump has announced a rollback of the HHS contraceptive mandate. (See here for my earlier coverage of the mandate.)

From Fox News:

The Trump administration on Friday announced a major rollback of the ObamaCare contraceptive mandate, granting what officials called “full protection” to a wide range of companies and organizations that claim a “religious or moral objection” to providing the coverage. 

The mandate, which has been the subject of multiple legal challenges, has required employers that provide health insurance to cover contraceptives. Under the existing policy, churches and houses of worship were exempt, while religious-affiliated groups that object had to allow a third-party administrator or insurer to handle birth control coverage. The 2014 Hobby Lobby decision expanded exemptions to for-profit “closely held” corporations.

But under the new policy unveiled Friday, the Trump administration is expanding the protections to any nonprofit group, non-publicly traded company, or higher education institution with religious or moral objections — and making the third-party provision optional for groups with “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

 (Full Fox News post here.)

I’m pleased that the President has followed through on a commitment he could have carried out his first day in office. Better late than never. Maybe he has no roots on this, and it took time for the people around him to put the ducks in a row. Notice the arm’s length language of the news report: Trump administration did thisofficials said that

I’m grateful. That’s simple courtesy and a measure of positive reinforcement. But I’m not going to grovel over the recognition of my rights of conscience and religious liberty that should never have been abrogated in the first place. It’s not as though the President is doing me a favor.

Actually, today’s action does sound like someone thinks there are favors to be dispensed. The news coverage speaks of exemptions, protection, and rollback. Selected entities are added to the list of exempt organizations. No mention of the First Amendment, at least in the initial breaking news update. It’s the First Amendment that’s at issue, which is something the mandate’s supporters have ferociously denied since 2012.

Why does the mandate stand at all? Why is there still anything to be exempted from?

The contraceptive mandate came out of Obamacare’s definition of birth control for women as “preventive care.” In a manner beyond anything the rankest sexist could have dreamed, Obamacare made it government policy that women are broken and need to be fixed. The normal functioning of a woman’s body was something to be “prevented.” Contraception was shifted from being a matter of choice to being a matter of public policy, forcing employers who chose to offer health insurance coverage to be involved in employees’ birth control decisions. Nothing ever put employers into employees’ bedrooms quite like the contraceptive mandate.

It’s to the everlasting credit of the American Catholic bishops that they recognized the mandate’s threat to religious liberty. Among other things, they knew that the Catholic health care system – which provides care to more women than any other provider in the nation – could be fined out of existence by the mandate.

The mandate originally came with exemptions for some politically-favored companies and organizations. Hobby Lobby and other plaintiffs later earned a Supreme Court victory that was extremely narrow, releasing closely-held companies from the mandate. President Trump told the Little Sisters of the Poor earlier this year that they could consider themselves free from fear of being fined for not wishing to pay for insurance coverage for employees’ birth control. At least fifty other lawsuits are pending against the mandate; I don’t know how many just became moot.

Today, the mandate took a serious hit. It’s still staggering around, though. The only way to kill it is to abandon the policy that gave rise to it in the first place. Stop treating the suppression of women’s fertility as “preventive care.” Stop expecting “free” contraception. When “free” means compelling financial support from people with religious objections to contraception, then “free” is too expensive.

Today’s action from the Trump Administration is long overdue. It’s the biggest hit on the mandate since Hobby Lobby. The mandate’s foundation remains in place, though. For religious resisters to the mandate, First Amendment rights are still at risk. May today be a spark to renewed assertion of those rights.

“Considering” religious liberty

President Trump has issued an executive order on religious liberty, addressing in part the litigation between the government and the Little Sisters of the Poor over the government’s contraceptive mandate.  The Sisters are apparently off the hook, if I properly understood the remarks the President made before he signed the order.

(Some of my earlier posts about the mandate are collected here.)

Pope Francis visiting Little Sisters of the Poor. Photo from littlesistersofthepoor.org.

The Sisters are among the many plaintiffs who object to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare on religious grounds. They don’t want to help procure contraception or abortion-inducing drugs and devices for their employees via employer-provided insurance. They have to go to court over this, lest they face fines that would destroy their ability to carry out their vocation to minister to impoverished elders.

The operative line in President Trump’s order is this: “The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate…” (Recall that contraception was declared to be “preventive” care under Obamacare.)

Consider issuing amended regulations?

I’m happy for the Sisters. This is good news, as far as it goes. But there’s a long way to go before the mandate is history.


So I noticed the national election…

This’ll be brief, so if you’re sick of election postmortems, bear with me.

I publicly declared last June my refusal to support either of the major presidential candidates. I saw (and see) no reason to recant. But here we are. Donald Trump is president-elect, and he is my president, whether I like it or not.

So was Barack Obama. You know what happens when I say he’s not my president? I reject my own right as an American citizen to call out him and his Administration for actions and policies. The president, any president, owes me accountability. I will not reject that.

The president-elect has said at least one encouraging thing. From his President-Elect web page (greatagain.gov; never let it be said the man forgets brand identity) on healthcare: “Protect individual conscience in healthcare; Protect innocent human life from conception to natural death, including the most defenseless and those Americans with disabilities.”

His opponent wouldn’t be saying any such thing.

Now we have a benchmark, one that the president-elect has set up himself, against which we may measure his actions.

The March for Life on January 27 is now of heightened importance. It will be the first major public gathering letting then-President Trump know that we’re watching. Copy that message to our upcoming pro-abortion congressional delegation.


 

On November’s political imperative (and it’s not about the Presidency)

Why I remain #NeverHillary & #NeverTrump despite the concerns of a pro-life writer,

Here we go.

I’ve been waiting for this, and I’m surprised it’s taken this long during campaign 2016.

The speaker: Eric Metaxas, a writer and commentator whose support for the right to life and religious freedom is beyond reproach. (I commend to you his biography of William Wilberforce and his speeches at CPAC  and University of the South on religious liberty.) Not a Trump fan, he has concluded that voting for Trump is imperative nonetheless.

The statement: “You’re going to have the blood of children on your hands” if you sit this one out or vote third party. He let that fly during an interview with Laura Ingraham that followed his article along the same lines in the October 13 Wall Street Journal

I am not voting for Trump or Clinton. I spelled out my reasons in June, long before the latest tapes and Wikileaks releases involving the candidates. Nothing has happened to change my mind, not even a stern admonition from the estimable Mr. Metaxas.

I’ve been told before that the blood of the babies will be on my hands if I don’t back a certain candidate. First time I heard it, twenty-some-odd years ago, I was hurt. I was afraid that people were going to think less of me.

That was then. Today, while I like approval as much as anyone, I won’t go against my better judgment to get it.

Eric Metaxas is entirely sincere. So are the dedicated pro-life people who are choosing Trump as the alternative to Clinton. People like Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List have staked all their political credibility on Trump. I believe in their good intentions. Let them follow their consciences and best judgment. I’ll follow mine.

In practical terms, as I have written before, I believe the Supreme Court would be in no better hands with Trump than with Clinton. I find his assurances to pro-lifers unpersuasive.

Instead, I sadly think Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists hit the nail on the head when she tweeted, “Supreme Court Justices are the new thirty pieces of silver.”

Ouch. But yes.

The day after the election, indeed the four years after the election, are going to be ugly for the right to life. Face it now. But far from sitting on my hands, as Mr. Metaxas fears, I’m urging people NOT to sit out the election.

Elect Senators and Members of Congress who will take seriously their powers of the purse and of confirmations. Send to Washington people who have something other than contempt for the right to life.

Elect state-level Executive Councilors who will blunt the impact of a governor who wants to send public money to abortion providers.

Elect state senators and representatives who will create a veto-proof majority for good legislation – an abortion statistics law, at a minimum.

There’s the pro-life political imperative this year.

As for the presidential race, something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity in a different context seems apt. Screwtape might have seen this year coming.

I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.

 (Eric Metaxas photo by Ellen Kolb)