The 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision occurred over the weekend, renewing public attention on the question of taxpayer-funded abortion.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, staunchly defending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), told The Hill newspaper that the law known as Obamacare “provides no taxpayer funding for abortion.” For much of the media, that assertion has come to loggerheads, with irreconcilable differences of interpretation of the terms funding and subsidies and arguments about the scope and effectiveness of President Obama’s executive order.
Sebelius’s attempt to downplay the tenuousness of the funding limitations was offset last week by the frank acknowledgment of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that the Obama order was his idea. Emanuel told The Chicago Tribune in an interview on January 14 that the order broke the impasse over the health care bill by allowing the Stupak–Pitts anti-abortion funding amendment “not to exist by law but by executive order.” This maneuver worked, facilitating passage of the PPACA but opening the abortion limitation to removal by either executive action or judicial decree. Only Congress can ensure that the limitation is no longer vulnerable to decisions of the other two branches of government, and that action is something strong majorities of Americans clearly support.
In just two short weeks, the nation will mark the centennial of the birth of Ronald Reagan. As President, Reagan began the tradition of issuing a proclamation marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and calling on Americans to reflect on the value of human life. As he wrote in 1985:
This respect for life is evident in communities throughout our Nation where people are reaching out, in a spirit of understanding and helping, to women with crisis pregnancies and to those who bear the spiritual and emotional scars of abortion. Such efforts strengthen the bonds of affection and obligation that unite us and assure that the family, the primary guardian of life and human values, will continue to be the foundation of our society.
A quarter century later, Representative Paul Ryan (R–WI) echoed similar themes in an essay he wrote as part of a compilation for The Heritage Foundation called Indivisible: Social and Economic Foundations of American Liberty:
Now, after America has won the last century’s hard-fought struggles against unequal human rights in the forms of totalitarianism abroad and segregation at home, I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect. I do know that we cannot go on forever feigning agnosticism about who is human. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live.
As tens of thousands of people assemble in Washington, D.C., today and in cities across the country to call the nation’s attention to the gap between our nation’s aspirations and our public policy, it is especially important to honor the work of thousands of pregnancy care centers and their volunteers. Offering a concrete alternative to elective abortion, these centers exemplify the best tradition of American compassion and service to others. The spreading assault on their work is a regrettable phenomenon, especially at a time when the enormity of official indifference to mothers in need has once been more tragically demonstrated.
The 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade offers another opportunity for a change of course—one that could begin with an agreement by the Obama Administration that there is no argument at all against making permanent what its officials have claimed, time and again, is their policy now: no taxpayer funding for abortion.