Life Advocacy Briefing

December 11, 2017

Chalk One Up / No Tax Break for the Unborn?
Arkansas Cuts Off Planned Parenthood / Truth Wins Hearts
Utter, Tragic Nonsense / House Voting Record

Chalk One Up

THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HAS YET TO ACT on the critical nomination of Kyle Duncan to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, about which we reported last week. But we can report progress.  

GOP Sen. John Kennedy (LA) has now announced he will support the nomination, despite his earlier reluctance.  Sen. Kennedy is a member of the Judiciary Committee and was holding out support for the former solicitor general of Louisiana. A major campaign both within Louisiana and among those watching the nomination from afar seems to have produced the desired result.

Now it is up to panel chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to schedule a vote on the nominee, who has already appeared before the committee in a lengthy hearing.

Readers may recall our report last week of endorsements for Mr. Duncan from such key figures as Louisiana’s attorney general, former US Rep. Jeff Landry (R), and Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) president Marjorie Dannenfelser.  Atty. Gen. Landry has called Mr. Duncan “the Neil Gorsuch of Louisiana.”

The nominee’s pro-life credentials appear to be beyond question, and his nomination to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit is bound to stir intense controversy in the embattled Senate. But first comes a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee. We ask readers to contact Senators on the Committee via the Capitol switchboard at 1-202/224-3121; when contacting Sen. Kennedy, please thank him for his public endorsement of this key appointment.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are Chairman Grassley and fellow Republicans Jeff Flake (AZ), Mike Crapo (ID), John Kennedy (LA), Ben Sasse (NE), Thom Tillis (NC), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn & Ted Cruz (TX) and Orrin Hatch & Mike Lee (UT). 

The 5th Circuit Court takes appeals from lower federal court rulings in Mississippi and Texas as well as Louisiana. Critical rulings often arise in this jurisdiction on pro-life legislation because of robust legislative efforts in this region to protect unborn babies and vulnerable mothers.

No Tax Break for the Unborn?

WHEN THE TAX CUT BILL PASSED THE SENATE last week, the House-added provision allowing expectant parents to set aside tax-deferred savings for the education of their unborn children – rather than waiting for birth, as in current law – was dropped, as we had feared could happen, and procedural hurdles prevented the Senate from reinserting it by an amendment authored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).

A further pro-child amendment, offered by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), would have offered lower-income families, according to Doug Mainwaring in, to “benefit more fully from the increased Child Tax Credit.” Rubio-Lee did come to a vote in the full Senate but drew only 29 “yes” votes of the 60 needed.

The measure is now being negotiated in a House-Senate conference, which will be chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who is chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. Other House Republican Members on the conference committee are Representatives Don Young (AK), Devin Nunes (CA), Peter Roskam & John Shimkus (IL), Greg Walden (OR), Kristi Noem (SD), Diane Black (TN) and Rob Bishop (UT). Democratic conferees from the House are Representatives Raul Grijalva (AZ), Kathy Castor (FL), Richard Neal (MA), Sander Levin (MI) and Lloyd Doggett (TX).

From the Senate,Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has appointed to the conference three key committee chairmen: Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Orrin Hatch (UT) of the Finance Committee and Mike Enzi (WY) of the Budget Committee. Joining them are GOP Senators Rob Portman (OH), Pat Toomey (PA), Tim Scott (SC), John Thune (SD) and John Cornyn (TX). Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) had yet to name conferees, as of our deadline.

According to Naomi Jagoda, writing for The Hill, “Democrats are not expected to sign the report produced by the conference committee.” But Republicans have sufficient numbers of conferees to be able to advance a report to both houses for a final vote, assuming the GOP Members can reach agreement among themselves.

Arkansas Cuts Off Planned Parenthood

THE STATE OF ARKANSAS RESUMED, in late November, its now-litigated policy of excluding Planned Parenthood from funding under Medicaid in the state.

Planned Parenthood’s disqualification was first instituted by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in response to the 2015 revelations about the abortion behemoth’s involvement in the trafficking of the remains of aborted babies. Planned Parenthood took the governor’s action to court and secured an order in 2015 and again in 2016 from US District Judge Kristine Baker, notes Dave Andrusko for National Right to Life News Today, “directing the state to continue paying for Planned Parenthood services for Medicaid recipients.”

On appeal from the state, those two orders were overturned last August by a three-judge appellate court panel. In mid-November, reports Fr. Mark Hodges for, “the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arkansas may indeed decide not to give Planned Parenthood Medicaid funds. … The full court,” writes Fr. Hodges, “said it would not revisit that lifting” of the Baker injunction.

After the 8th Circuit made clear it stood by its panel’s August ruling, the state’s Dept. of Human Services again formally cut off Planned Parenthood as a provider in the state’s Medicaid program. 

Gov. Hutchinson issued a statement in response to the full 8th Circuit ruling, reports Mr. Andrusko, declaring, “‘It is important for the state to have the clear authority to terminate Medicaid providers who act in unethical ways and in violation of state policy. … The decision early on to terminate Planned Parenthood as a provider was the right decision, and I am delighted with the decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in affirming the right of the state to take this action.’”

Truth Wins Hearts

Nov. 29, 2017, commentary by Dave Andrusko in National Right to Life News Today

            Perhaps subconsciously we tend to think that opinions on abortion are essentially etched in stone. And it is true that many people do think they have their minds made up.

            But I suspect in more cases than we imagine this is an illusion. Why do I say that? Because most people have not thought the issue through in any serious way. What they have is an inclination to which they cling to out of habit. Properly educated, they can be moved.

            Let me explain by quoting a passage from author Philip Yancey in one of his fine books. Although it is about another subject, the basic insight is highly relevant to our discussion.

            “In the mountains where I live, geologists and miners use the elegant term ‘angle of repose’ to describe the precise angle at which a boulder will rest on the side of a hill, rather than tumble downward. … Every so often one of these boulders breaks loose, releasing the potential energy in a crashing rockslide that permanently alters the landscape. Something similar happens in an avalanche, when an accumulation of tiny, almost weightless snowflakes breaks loose.”

            That is how I see most people’s posture on abortion. Not dug in and immovable but precariously perched in a way that the slightest push can send it moving in a pro-life direction. Tremendous “potential energy” is then unleashed.

            Years back, the long debate over partial-birth abortion permanently altered the interior landscape of many Americans. That sent them racing away from self-identifying as “pro-choice” and embracing pro-life. Even Gallup noticed.

            More recently, the public has been exposed to the depravities of convicted murderer abortionist Kermit Gosnell. And, regardless of what abortion apologists insist, Gosnell, now serving three consecutive life sentences, is not one of a kind.

            For still others, that shove will be something so awful it sucks the very air out of their lungs: that unborn babies are capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks, if not earlier. Specifically (as National Right to Life Committee described it), the realization “that abortions are frequently performed late in pregnancy, on babies who are capable of being born alive, and on babies who will experience great pain while being killed.”

            It goes without saying, of course, that not everyone will react to the same set of facts or in the same way. For example, for others (many others) it may be a far gentler persuader. For instance, seeing an ultrasound picture of their baby – or any baby – becomes the final “snowflake” that sets off an avalanche of revulsion against abortion.

            There is a reason pro-abortionists react so hysterically to passage of even the most limited, commonsense legislation. They understand (far better than we do, I suspect) that abortion’s “angle of repose” has always been precariously balanced.

            But never more so than today.

Utter, Tragic Nonsense

Dec. 4, 2017, BreakPoint commentary by John Stonestreet

            Children are some of the greatest blessings in life. They teach you that the world doesn’t revolve around you, they bring endless joy and opportunities for character development, and they give us a little glimpse of how God sees His children.

            But what if having children is actually immoral? That’s the argument one research scholar at the Berman Institute for Bioethics made in a recent opinion piece for NBC.

            Travis Rieder argues that having children is unethical because it contributes to the destruction of earth’s environment. According to him, the amount of greenhouse gas a child will emit over his or her lifetime is staggering. Having multiple children means doubling, tripling and quadrupling that impact.

            He goes so far as to compare his own daughter to a murderer.

            “If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for these deaths. … Something similar is true, I think, when it comes to having children: Once my daughter is an autonomous agent, she will be responsible for her emissions. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility.”

            Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a quote.

            Look, the argument that it’s immoral to have children depends on several big assumptions. First, it assumes that the effects of climate change will be as serious as forecasters say. That’s a tough sell, given the long history of failed environmental disaster predictions.

            In 1970, on the first annual Earth Day, Life magazine prophesied that by 1985, air pollution would usher in a new ice age. That same year, Dillon Ripley, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, wrote that in 25 years, 75 to 80% of all animal species would go extinct. And Paul Ehrlich, Stanford professor and author of The Population Bomb, predicted that 100 to 200 million people per year would be starving to death by 1980 and that England would not exist by the year 2000.

            These kinds of predictions have a tendency not to pan out. Our understanding of nature is patchy at best. Some humility is in order. This is especially true given the fact that many demographers expect world population to level off or even decrease in the near future.

            But Rieder’s argument makes another assumption: that humans are the problem, not the solution. Doomsday prognostications are often based on the unstated belief that people are the problem – consumers of resources who reproduce and will eventually max out our planet’s capacity to carry them. But in reality, humans do much more than just consume. They innovate, they come up with new energy sources, they improve technology. That’s the primary reason none of these dire predictions have come true.

            The expected food shortage was averted by breakthroughs in agriculture. Today, not only are we not witnessing mass starvation, but extreme poverty is at an all-time low.

            The technologies that made this possible were discovered, in a very literal sense, because someone had a baby. Each new person is a new mind, with potential to unlock new solutions. You never know which child will be the engineer or physicist who discovers the fuel that reverses greenhouse emissions.

            At work here are two fundamentally different worldviews. For Christians, people are the pinnacle and purpose of creation. We alone bear the likeness of a Creator Who said not only, “be fruitful and multiply,” but also “let the little children come to Me.”

            On Twitter last week, Matthew Lee Anderson quoted Pope Benedict XVI, who said of Rieder’s brand of alarmism, “A point of view … which considers fertility as an evil cannot be allowed to spread without contradiction.”

            He’s right. A worldview that sees children as the problem may not last to see its predictions fail. Ironically, the only species radical environmentalists are likely to drive to extinction is themselves.

House Voting Record

HRes-600 – Rule providing for consideration of HR-849 –Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act (to Abolish ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board [‘Death Panel’]) – Nov. 2, 2017 – 240-178 (Democrats in italics)

Voting “yes” / pro-Life: Aderholt, Byrne, Palmer, Roby, Rogers/AL; Young/AK; Biggs, Franks, Gosar, McSally, O’Halleran, Schweikert, Sinema/AZ; Crawford, Hill, Westerman, Womack/AR; Calvert, Carbajal, Cook, Denham, Hunter, Issa, Knight, LaMalfa, McCarthy, McClintock, Nunes, Rohrabacher, Royce, Ruiz,  Valadao, Walters/CA; Buck, Coffman, Lamborn, Tipton/CO; Bilirakis, Buchanan, Crist, Curbelo, DeSantis, Diaz-Balart, Dunn, Gaetz, Mast, Murphy, Posey, F.Rooney, T.Rooney, Ros-Lehtinen, Ross, Rutherford, Webster, Yoho/FL; Allen, Carter, Collins, Ferguson, Graves, Handel, Hice, Loudermilk, A.Scott, Woodall/GA; Labrador, Simpson/ID; Bost, R.Davis, Hultgren, Kinzinger, LaHood, Roskam, Schneider, Shimkus/IL; Banks, Brooks, Bucshon, Hollingsworth, Messer, Rokita, Walorski/IN; Blum, King, Young/IA; Estes, Jenkins, Marshall, Yoder/KS; Comer, Guthrie, Massie, Rogers/KY; Abraham, Graves, Higgins, Johnson, Scalise/LA;  Poliquin/ME; Harris/MD; Amash, Bergman, Bishop, Huizenga, Mitchell, Moolenaar, Trott, Walberg/MI; Emmer, Lewis, Paulsen, Peterson/MN; Harper, Kelly, Palazzo/MS; Graves, Hartzler, Long, Luetkemeyer, Smith, Wagner/MO; Gianforte/MT; Bacon, Fortenberry, Smith/NE; Amodei, Rosen/NV; Frelinghuysen, Gottheimer,Lance, LoBiondo, MacArthur, Smith/NJ; Pearce/NM; Collins, Donovan, Faso, Katko, King, Reed, Stefanik, Suozzi,Tenney, Zeldin/NY; Budd, Foxx, Holding, Hudson, Jones, McHenry, Meadows, Pittenger, Rouzer, Walker/NC; Cramer/ND; Chabot, Davidson, Gibbs, Johnson, Jordan, Joyce, Latta, Renacci, Stivers, Tiberi, Turner, Wenstrup/OH; Cole, Lucas, Mullin, Russell/OK; Walden/OR; Barletta, Costello, Dent, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Marino, Meehan, Perry, Rothfus, Shuster, Smucker, Thompson/PA; Duncan, Norman, Rice, Sanford, Wilson/SC; Noem/SD; Blackburn, DesJarlais, Duncan, Fleischmann, Kustoff, Roe/TN; Arrington, Babin, Barton, Brady, Burgess, Carter, Conaway, Culberson, Farenthold, Flores, Gohmert, Granger, Hurd, S.Johnson, McCaul, Olson, Poe, Ratcliffe, Sessions, Smith, Thornberry, Weber, Williams/TX; Bishop, Love/UT; Brat, Comstock, Garrett, Goodlatte, Griffith, Taylor, Wittman/VA; Herrera-Beutler, McMorris-Rodgers, Newhouse, Reichert/WA; Jenkins, McKinley, Mooney/WV; Duffy, Gallagher, Grothman, Sensenbrenner/WI; Cheney/WY.

Voting “no” / anti-Life: Sewell/AL; Gallego, Grijalva/AZ; Aguilar, Barragan, Bass, Bera, Brownley, Cardenas, Chu, Correa, Costa, Davis, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Garamendi, Gomez, Huffman, Khanna, Lieu, Lofgren, Lowenthal, Matsui, McNerney, Napolitano, Panetta, Pelosi, Roybal-Allard, Sanchez, Schiff, Sherman, Speier, Swalwell, Takano, Thompson, Torres, Vargas, Waters/CA; DeGette, Perlmutter, Polis/CO; Courtney, DeLauro, Esty, Himes, Larson/CT; Blunt-Rochester/DE; Castor, Demings, Deutch, Frankel, Hastings, Lawson, Soto, Wasserman-Schultz, Wilson/FL; Bishop, Johnson, Lewis/GA; Gabbard, Hanabusa/HI; Bustos, D.Davis, Foster, Gutierrez, Kelly, Krishnamoorthi, Lipinski, Quigley, Rush, Schakowsky/IL; Carson, Visclosky/IN; Loebsack/IA; Yarmuth/KY; Richmond/LA; Pingree/ME; Brown, Cummings, Delaney, Raskin, Ruppersberger, Sarbanes/MD; Capuano, Clark, Keating, Kennedy, Lynch, McGovern, Moulton, Neal, Tsongas/MA; Conyers, Dingell, Kildee, Lawrence, Levin/MI; Ellison, McCollum, Nolan, Walz/MN; Thompson/MS; Clay, Cleaver/MO; Kihuen, Titus/NV; Kuster, Shea-Porter/NH; Norcross, Pallone, Pascrell, Payne, Sires, Watson-Coleman/NJ; Lujan, Lujan-Grisham/NM; Clarke, Crowley, Engel, Espaillat, Higgins, Jeffries, Lowey, C.Maloney, S.Maloney, Meeks, Meng, Nadler, Rice, Serrano, Slaughter, Tonko, Velazquez/NY; Adams, Beatty, Butterfield, Price/NC; Fudge, Kaptur, Ryan/OH; Blumenauer, Bonamici, DeFazio, Schrader/OR; Boyle, Brady, Cartwright, Doyle, Evans/PA; Cicilline, Langevin/RI; Clyburn/SC; Cohen, Cooper/TN; Castro, Cuellar, Doggett, Gonzalez, A.Green, G.Green, Jackson-Lee, E.B.Johnson, O’Rourke, Veasey, Vela/TX; Welch/VT; Beyer, Connolly, McEachin, Scott/VA; DelBene, Heck, Jayapal, Kilmer, Larsen, Smith/WA; Kind, Moore/WI.

Not voting: Brooks/AL; Lee, Peters/CA; D.Scott/GA; Barr/KY; Hoyer/MD; Upton/MI; Bridenstine/OK; Gowdy/SC; Black/TN; Hensarling, Marchant/TX; Stewart/UT; Pocan, Ryan/WI.