Another week, another abortion debate in the Missouri House. To give you the context, the General Assembly increased funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program which provides moneys to Pregnancy Resource Centers that help women with crisis pregnancies to choose life and care for themselves and their children. After Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick finishes up comments on another part of the bill, Rep. Stacey Newman weighs in to oppose increased funding for PRCs – then I respond.
Category Archives: Pro-Life
Planned Parenthood’s unmitigated implosion continues. Since last week’s report, the Missouri Senate announced it would investigate Missouri’s chapter with an interim committee on the Sanctity of Life chaired by Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia). Attorney General Chris Koster announced Tuesday he would heed Sen. Schaefer’s and my call for a criminal investigation, noting that the video released called for careful review “regardless of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice.” Two Missouri House committees have also announced a joint investigation.
Also on Tuesday, the Center for Medical Progress released yet another disturbing hidden video of a Planned Parenthood doctor trafficking in human body parts. In the new video, Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors’ Council President is shown haggling over payments and jokes, “I want a Lamborghini.”
Planned Parenthood has since apologized for the first video’s tone –which only further shows that they exist in a parallel moral universe from the vast majority of Americans. I could feign shock or surprise by the latest video. But think about it. Set the legal arguments aside. Planned Parenthood leaders believe what they are doing should be legal, but also believe there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Slave owners didn’t think there was anything wrong with what they were doing either. The brazen treatment of innocent lives by Planned Parenthood should not shock anyone.
For normal moral people, every abortion is a tragedy a for the child, but also for others, for the mother and father, for the family, for society. For Planned Parenthood, abortion is just another medical procedure. To the Planned Parenthood leaders on the videos, these are not lives they are talking about. To Planned Parenthood, these are mere tissues – in these videos, commodities to be bartered over and sold like ordinary property –even though in many cases they could survive outside the womb.
I am not suggesting, of course, that every person who is pro-choice thinks like Planned Parenthood doctors. Most people who are pro-choice try to avoid assigning a moral value to decisions on abortion. Many people say, “Personally, I’m pro-choice. I could never do that. But it’s not my choice. I can’t tell a woman what to do with their own body.” For most pro-choice Americans, the child is tertiary. It’s the individual choice of the woman. The child doesn’t have a say.
For most things in life, a general live-and-let-live philosophy is not only defensible, but a necessary value for a free society. Abortion is different. As uncomfortable as it may be, the pro-choice position requires acceptance of the same logic that justified slavery. The pro-choice philosophy requires one to accept that the moral value of an individual life is entirely dependent on some other person’s perspective. But just as “no human being can be justly owned by another,” neither can the moral value of an innocent life hinge on anyone else’s decision.
Pro-choice advocates have polluted the political debate on the issue by portraying pro-lifers as anti-woman. It is true that the pro-life focus is on the child first. We fight for these children to give voice to the voice-less. There is nothing sexist about insisting that every child matters.
As a society, we do not accept the pro-choice logic in any other aspect of law or life. We don’t accept “honor” killings within a family like they do in the Middle East. It is illegal for husbands here to subjugate their wives. Even the very same child who can be legally aborted is protected by our laws against murder when someone else carries out an act of violence against a mother.
Abortion defenders argue this is different – that what us pro-lifers say is a child is, in their view, not developed enough to be worthy of our protection. But how different is it really? At 18 days a baby’s heart beats. At just eight weeks, all organs function. At nine weeks, they have fingerprints. At 10 weeks, tests show they can feel pain and respond to stimuli. At 12 weeks, they can suck their thumb and make a fist. At 22 weeks, they can survive outside the womb. At 25 weeks, they have a greater than 50 percent chance of surviving.
In short, they are alive. They are human. They are gifts from God. They have souls. They have moral value. And they are more than worthy of our protection.
In 2009, a similar series of hidden video led to the break-up of ACORN. Could the same thing happen to Planned Parenthood? I hope so. The organization’s defenders argue that it provides vital non-abortion health care services to millions of women. True. But there are better options. Why can’t county health departments or other health care providers provide those services? If Planned Parenthood did not exist, someone else would provide the same services. And, rather than referring at-risk women for abortions, instead they’d refer them to pregnancy help centers.
Perhaps Missouri can give Planned Parenthood a helpful nudge by passing a law to prohibit any health care provider from operating in this state if it has any relationship with an organization convicted of illegally harvesting or trafficking in human body parts.
On Tuesday, the Center for Medical Progress released a video showing Planned Parenthood’s top “doctor” discussing how their organization sells body parts after partial-birth abortions. The doctor in the video suggests this is a widespread practice that extends to Planned Parenthood’s affiliates throughout the country. She even rattles off prices for various body parts and explains the grotesque process of how she kills babies but is careful to save their organs. The video is not for the feint-hearted.
On Wednesday, Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) called for a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood’s operations in Missouri. As Sen. Schaefer points out, if Missouri’s Planned Parenthood facilities are engaging in the activity their executive described, they should be tried, convicted, and sent to prison. I thank Sen. Schaefer for his leadership on this issue and join his call for an investigation.
This is not just a bad joke. This week in federal court a group of devil worshippers sued to overturn our state’s restrictions on abortion as a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and the Establishment Clause. (I’m not just calling them devil worshippers. The suit is literally brought on behalf of “The Satanic Temple.”)
While absurd, this lawsuit strikes at the heart of a key point in the abortion argument and governing philosophy in general. Abortion defenders often claim, “Well, you can’t legislate morality.” Not true.
We “legislate morality” all the time. In fact, most laws involve some moral judgment. Prohibitions on murder, rape, theft, assault, slavery, you name it, all involve moral judgments. Even civil laws with no criminal consequence involve morality. Take, for example, the Senior Savings Protection Act – which I handled and Gov. Nixon just signed – it’s underlying premise is that it’s morally wrong for a swindler to steal from vulnerable Missourians, so the law makes it easier to stop that fraud. That’s legislating morality.
Do these laws violate the Establishment Clause because they’re based on morality that’s entirely consistent and derived from religious values that are shared by nearly all religions? Of course not. Neither do our restrictions on abortion, an event that ends a life. In the case of the 72 hour waiting period, it’s not too much to ask three days wait before taking an entire lifetime away from a child.
Usually when someone argues, “We can’t legislate morality,” what they really mean is just, “We shouldn’t legislate morality” in this situation. In some senses, the statement that “we can’t legislate morality” is also true. No law will ever eliminate fraud or crime or any of the other things we prohibit or limit. Human beings will make bad choices regardless of what government tries to do. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
First the bad: Earlier this week, a federal judge struck down legislation we passed last year (over a Governor’s veto) to protect the religious liberties of Missouri employers forced by ObamaCare to pay for services for which they have a religious objection.
Now the good: SB 749 was about more than just the religious liberties of Missouri employers. It also included what the Missouri Catholic Conference called “the Barnes Amendment,” a provision which ensures that no Missourian will ever be forced to pay for another’s elective abortion.
Section 376.1199.6 now provides that insurers must inform all Missourians with employer-sponsored health plans “whether an optional rider for elective abortions has been purchased” by the employer, and that all Missourians have “the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions if such coverage is contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
The Senate approved legislation yesterday re-authorizing and extending benevolent tax credits, including credits for food pantries and pregnancy resource centers which, respectively, will help the Samaritan Center to the Pregnancy Help Center of Central Missouri to increase donations. The bill, SB 20, now heads over to the House where I hope it will move quickly.
The Post-Dispatch reports today on the federal government taking control of a health insurance exchange in our state since the legislature has failed to authorize the creation of a state-based exchange. I manage to make it into the article:
“I believe the Legislature should move forward with creating a state-based health insurance exchange,” he said. “I’d rather have an exchange with rules set by people in Missouri than by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
Barnes said he understands the temptation to ignore mandates of the health care law.
“I don’t like it, either,” he said.
There are two considerations in whether to set up an exchange.
Subsidies for 2 of 3 Missourians
The first, which is not stated in the PD article, is that the new federal healthcare law provides subsidizes to Americans who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to help pay for insurance purchased through state-based exchanges. Four-hundred percent of FPL is a ridiculously high number for what are essentially “health care stamps.” For a family of four then, federal subsidies will be available for families making up to $92,200 per year. According to the Kaiser Foundation, nearly 4 million Missourians will be eligible for subsidies – or approximately 66 percent of Missouri’s population. Think about that: two of every three Missourians under the age of 65 will be receiving health care welfare under the new federal health care law!
Some will make the argument that we can stop implementation by refusing to create an exchange because the subsidies are not available in states that do not have state-run exchanges, and, if enough states refuse to create exchanges, there will be rebound effect nationally. Republicans in Congress argue the law clearly states subsidies are not available in states without state-run exchanges. The White House disagreed, and had the IRS draft a rule stating that everyone under 400% FPL is eligible whether they live in a state with a federally-run or a state-run exchange. Whether the IRS rule holds up in court or not remains to be seen – and it will be a long time before we know.
In the meantime, even if we assume that subsidies are not available to people in states that have not created state-based exchanges, the question is whether we deny Missourians the full benefits of the taxes they pay.
The ridiculousness of the level of subsidies is a great argument for repeal – in Washington. In Missouri, we don’t have that choice. Our choice is whether Missourians are going to be taxed to pay for this unaffordable mess in New York, California, Texas, and Florida, but then not get any benefits from it here in Missouri. By failing to create our own exchange, we shortchange the tax dollars of Missourians.
I don’t like the new federal health care law. I hate the idea of expanding welfare to two out of three Americans. But I also recognize the situation. Missouri state government cannot repeal the law on its own. To refuse to create the exchange is to tell Missourians that they have to pay the costs of the law, but can’t get any of the benefits. That might make folks feel like they’re newfound William Wallaces saving the Republic, but it will not change anything about federal policy – and it will shortchange our own citizens.
Establishing Our Own Rules
The second and more pressing issue is whether we want an exchange set-up and run by unelected bureaucrats in Washington over whom Missourians have little to no say – or whether we have one set up by elected officials here. Some might think that this has no practical implication – that Washington would put such strict limits on our flexibility that we have freedom in name only. I think this is dangerously wrong. For example, what if Kathleen Sebelius chooses to require plans within the exchange to offer elective abortion coverage? I understand there’s a state law against coverage of elective abortions in a hypothetical insurance exchange. The question is whether the federal government will agree to follow that law in implementing an exchange here. Count me as a skeptic. If the feds ignored this, there would soon be a lawsuit, but do we want to chance it?
The Joint Committee on the Criminal Code had its fourth meeting yesterday and finally got to take some public testimony. I was dismayed to hear people who represent domestic violence shelters and children separately detail several huge loopholes in Missouri’s laws against rape and child sexual abuse. For example:
- Statutory rape in the first degree is not considered a dangerous felony.
- Sex offenders are allowed to be placed in a 120 day treatment program, and if they are, that’s not allowed to be held against them later if they re-offend.
- First-degree statutory rape sentences may be run concurrently, allowing perpetrators to get out early.
- Incest is not an aggravating factor to increasing the severity of a charge.
- SIS and SES is not allowed for first degree or forcible rape, but it is allowed for first-degree statutory rape and sodomy.
- The definition of forcible rape does not include rape that occurs when the victim is incapacitated when the incapacity is caused by someone other than the perpetrator – for example, a drugged hospital patient who took pain medication after surgery.
I plan to file legislation next year to fix all of these problems. Statutory rape should be considered a dangerous felony. Sex offenders shouldn’t be given slap-on-the-wrist 120 day treatment sentences. SIS and SES shouldn’t be allowed for statutory rape or sodomy. And the definition of rape should be updated to include incapacity.
I was pleased yesterday to vote to override Governor Nixon’s veto of SB 749, a pro-life bill that protects the First Amendment rights of all Missourians. I’m also happy to report that a major part of the bill (I’d argue the most important part) was an amendment I sponsored which guarantees that no Missourian will ever be forced to pay for anyone else’s elective abortion. The amendment is on page 6, and declares that “an enrollee who is a member of a group health plan with coverage for elective abortions has the right to exclude and not pay for coverage for elective abortions if such coverage is contrary to his or her moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
I got a little heated this morning on KWOS talking about veto session – and why we’re here. It’s always tough to follow Leonard Steinman, but it was a good time as always. Today in the House, we’ll be taking up one or two bills in veto session. Without doubt, we will be taking up the religious liberties bill to attempt to override the Governor’s veto. I believe the bill will get 112 votes and we will override. My explanation and thoughts on that bill can be found here. It is still unknown whether there are enough votes to override Governor Nixon’s purely politically motivated veto of the tax fairness bill.