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Pro-life, pro-family advocates pleased with new Bush policies


WASHINGTON (BP)–Pro-life and pro-family organizations have greeted with enthusiasm some recent decisions by the Bush administration.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other groups applauded not only the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement it will consider unborn babies as children eligible for coverage under a health-insurance program but the following administration steps as well:

— HHS announced Bush’s new budget for 2003 will increase funding for sexual abstinence education by $33 million, bringing the total to $135 million.

— The Department of Justice filed a brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold Ohio’s law prohibiting partial-birth abortion.

— The president placed a hold on up to $34 million in funds allocated by Congress for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) while he investigates whether the agency supports coercive abortion policies in China.

“Pro-life and pro-family Americans should be delighted that the Bush administration continues to put its weight foursquare behind actions that promote life from conception through natural death and everywhere in between,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “They also should be pleased this administration is supporting the emotionally, physically and spiritually healthiest approach to sex education, which is abstinence until marriage.

“All of these actions by the Bush administration provide vivid answers to the question sometimes posed by evangelicals: ‘Why bother to vote? It doesn’t make any difference.’ Votes matter and elections make a difference,” Land said.

HHS announced both its proposed inclusion of unborn children in a health-coverage program and an increase in abstinence funding Jan. 31.

Under its proposal, HHS will allow states to provide coverage to low-income mothers for their unborn children. The regulation would enable states to extend to pregnant women and their babies the use of funds already available under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The increase in abstinence funding in the HHS budget consists of $73 million for the Community-based Abstinence Education program, which supports both private and public groups in the development of abstinence education; $50 million in such education grants to the 50 states and nine territories; and $12 million through the department’s Adolescent Family Life Program.

“We are making unprecedented investments in teen abstinence education,” HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a written release. “For the first time, the federal government has demonstrated its commitment to bringing equity to the message of abstinence and teen family planning services.”

Pro-life and pro-family organizations have criticized for several years the federal government’s generous funding of “safe-sex” education that includes instruction in the use of contraceptives. Funds for such education efforts have far exceeded those for abstinence training in the past.

The administration’s willingness to intervene in the Ohio partial-birth abortion case came as somewhat of a surprise. The Supreme Court had struck down in 2000 a partial-birth ban enacted by Nebraska.

The Department of Justice brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals contends the Ohio law is narrower than the Nebraska ban and provides an exception for the “health” of the mother not found in the version ruled unacceptable by the high court. The exception for a mother’s health, however, has been ruled by the Supreme Court beginning in 1973 to be so expansive as to allow abortion for any reason provided by a woman or doctor.

Several pro-life organizations praised the Justice Department’s support for a law against the procedure despite this flaw. Abortion-rights backers, meanwhile, criticized the federal agency. “The Bush administration wants the government to make abortion illegal,” said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, in a written statement. “The filing of this brief is just the latest in a series of attempts to further this goal.”

Partial-birth abortion describes a procedure normally used in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy in which a doctor pulls a baby feet first from his/her mother’s womb until only the head remains undelivered. The physician then pierces the base of the child’s skull with scissors and suctions out the brains.

President Clinton twice vetoed congressional bans on the procedure. In the wake of the high court’s rejection of the Nebraska law, Congress has not approved a ban since Bush took office, even though the president has said he favors such legislation.

Pro-choice advocates also castigated Bush’s decision to not disperse funds to UNFPA for the time being.

Congress’ appropriation of $34 million for UNFPA in this year’s budget does not require the president to fund any or all of that amount. Under federal law, Bush is required to affirm the agency does not back coercive abortion before providing any funds to it.

As recently as September, the UNFPA was helping in China’s coercive population-control program, according to an investigation by the Population Research Institute, an American pro-life organization. A PRI team reported witnesses told it the family planning in a UNFPA-run program in a Chinese region was involuntary. Coercion, in the form of not only sterilization and abortion but imprisonment and property destruction, exists in the UNFPA program, according to the report. The UNFPA has denied the charges.

Pro-lifers have called on Bush to give no funding to the UNFPA.

The president did not place the agency in his 2003 budget, although there is $25 million in reserve for UNFPA.
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Laura Headley contributed to this article.