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Support for pregnant women among bills

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of Congress continue to promote pro-life legislation in spite of control by abortion-rights advocates of both the legislature and the White House.

Several measures designed to reduce abortions or block federal funding of the practice have been offered in the new congressional session. Among the bills seeking to decrease abortions is the Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA), which has been reintroduced by two Democrats, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Rep. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee.

The legislation, S. 270 in the Senate and H.R. 605 in the House of Representatives, proposes a multi-pronged approach to helping women in crisis pregnancies choose to give birth. The bill seeks to provide women with information on their unborn child and their options, as well as to offer various forms of assistance.

PWSA is a legislative companion to Democrats for Life of America’s 95-10 Initiative, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions in the United States by 95 percent in 10 years.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) reiterated the endorsement of PWSA it provided in the last Congress.

“If we’re pro-life, then we need to do everything we can to empower women to choose to have their babies, and the provisions of this bill are aimed directly at that goal,” ERLC President Richard Land told Baptist Press.

Among its proposals, PWSA would:

— Require abortion providers to obtain informed consent from women before performing abortions;

— Approve the issuance of grants to health centers for the purchase and use of ultrasound equipment;

— Establish a toll-free phone number to direct women to organizations that will provide support during and after their pregnancies;

— Create programs to assist pregnant and parenting high school and college students so they can complete their schooling;

— Eliminate pregnancy as a pre-existing condition in the health-insurance industry, thereby providing prenatal and postnatal care for women;

— Codify a rule providing coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income pregnant women and unborn children.

In a Nov. 5 letter to then-President-elect Obama after his election, the ERLC’s Land said an excellent way for him to unite the country “would be for you to put your full and vigorous support behind” PWSA.

“All of these measures [in PWSA] would help fulfill the pledge made in the 2008 Democratic Party platform, which ‘strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support and caring adoption programs,'” Land wrote to Obama.

Obama fully supported abortion rights throughout his years in the Illinois and U.S. Senates. On Jan. 23, he issued an executive order overturning the Mexico City Policy, which barred family planning funds from going to organizations that perform or promote abortion overseas.

Casey told reporters in a Jan. 16 conference call he is unaware if the White House has a position on PWSA, “but we’ll certainly be working with them to get the support of the administration.”

In Congress, abortion-rights advocates expanded their majorities in both houses in the November election. In spite of that fact, Casey said he hopes the “new kind of common ground” PWSA represents will gain support.

The bill, Davis told reporters, starts the process of seeking “to help reduce abortions” and “bring about at least options and opportunities for women by themselves in a distressed situation.”

On another front in the battle over abortion, Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., has reintroduced legislation to ban abortion providers from receiving funds through Title X, the federal government’s family planning program. The measure especially would affect Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Its affiliates performed nearly 290,000 abortions in 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available.

It is morally wrong not only to kill an unborn child, but “it is also morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to promote abortion at home or abroad,” Pence said in a written statement Jan. 22, the day after he reintroduced the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, H.R. 614.

“Many Americans fail to recognize the largest abortion provider in America is also the largest recipient of federal taxpayer dollars through Title X — this should not be,” Pence said.

Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., has introduced a similar measure, S. 85.

Among other pro-life bills already introduced in the new Congress are the:

— Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, H.R. 6, which would prohibit a minor from being transported to another state to avoid a parental involvement law in her home state;

— Ultrasound Informed Consent Act, H.R. 649, which would require an abortion provider to perform an ultrasound and give a woman considering an abortion the opportunity to view the images before agreeing to the procedure;

— Abortion Non-discrimination Act, S. 96, which would protect the conscience rights of pro-life health-care providers and institutions.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.