Federal  Briefs 

Ana Brennan, J.D.

 

 

A summary of pro-life action taken by the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches of the Federal Government during the last quarter of 2017.

 

 

The Executive Office

 

Executive Orders:

Mexico City Policy: In January 2017, the Trump administration took executive action and reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits federal funding of international abortions, and ended U.S. support of the UN Population Fund. 

 

Health and Human Services Birth Control Mandate:  On May 4, 2017, in response to the mandate in Obamacare that forced Americans to violate their conscience if they wanted to provide medical care, President Trump issued an executive order to promote religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Under the guise of implementing Obamacare, Health and Human Services promulgated a rule that required all employers, including religious organizations, to pay all costs for all forms of birth control, including abortion drugs and devices, and sterilization for their employees.

 

Not only did this executive order grant a religious exemption to protect the conscience of employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor, allowing them to continue serving the elderly without violating their faith; but even the conscience of employers whose objection to the mandate is based on scientific and philosophical grounds are covered.

 

Unfortunately, pro-abortion activists are not content on allowing Americans to freely exercise their conscience while providing medical care to the poor. In late November 2017, California and Pennsylvania decided to challenge Trump’s executive order and are currently dragging the Little Sisters of the Poor through the courts again.

 

Bill signed into law by the Executive:

Numerous pro-life bills were introduced during the 115th session of Congress, but only one was signed into law.

 

Nullification of Obama’s Title X funding regulation

H.J.Res. 43: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule submitted by Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting

 

Joint Resolution. H.J.Res. 43 / S.J.Res. 13

House Sponsor: Diane Black (R-TN)                

Senate Sponsor: Joni Ernst (R-IA)

 

In 2016, the Obama Administration issued a regulation to Title X of the Public Health Service Act, a massive federal family planning program, which forced states to distribute funds to abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood. Congress passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which restored power to the states to direct funds to appropriate providers.

 

Passed the House                      Vote                                                                                Passed the Senate                     Vote

February, 16, 2017                    230-188                                                                         March 30, 2017                         51-50

 

Vice President Mike Pence had to vote to break the tie in the Senate. The resolution was supported by 50 Republican senators, opposed by all Senate Democrats and two Republicans: Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).  Signed into law by President Trump on April 13, 2017.

 

 

The Judicial Branch

 

U.S. Supreme Court may review whether an undocumented pregnant minor in government detention has a right to an abortion:

 

December 21, 2017. During its first private conference scheduled for January 5th, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to grant review to a class-action case to determine if undocumented pregnant minors in government custody at an HHS detention center, have a constitutional right to taxpayer facilitated abortion. To date, the lower federal courts have granted minors in this particular situation a right to an abortion. However, this issue is far from settled. Eleven states have made repeated requests for clarification of this legal standard. It is the position of the states involved that due to their unauthorized entry and almost complete lack of connection to the United States, these teenagers do not have any constitutional rights, including a right to an abortion.

 

This issue first came to light in late October when an undocumented 17-year-old who was 16-weeks pregnant and in an HHS detention center requested an abortion. The government pointed out that the federally-funded HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement had recently adopted policies that promote and provide life-affirming solutions, and abortion would be contrary to these new policies. The Office duly noted, “[HHS detention centers] should not become way stations for these children to get taxpayer-facilitated abortions.” 

 

Unfortunately, a federal district court disagreed and found a new right to abortion for undocumented minors. The state attorney general of Texas is correct in his assessment that the ACLU is exploiting this situation as a test case to promote their extremist agenda with the goal to “create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally.”

 

Once again on Dec. 18th, the ACLU filed a challenge on behalf of three more undocumented pregnant minors being held in an HHS detention center. One pregnant minor, who was 19, was released from custody when it was discovered she had been lying about her age in order to get an abortion. The ACLU is moving forward, suing on behalf of the two remaining undocumented pregnant minors specifically and all detained undocumented pregnant minors generally in a larger suit against the new life-affirming policies implemented by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

 

Addendum. The undocumented teen who aborted her baby from the first highly publicized case in October now requires mental health treatment. Under the guise of protecting the privacy of this teen, at the request of the ever-litigious ACLU, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the judge who initially granted the teen a right to abortion, has issued a gag order placing severe restrictions on the government. This order prohibits the government from sharing any medical records or information relevant to her abortion with prospective mental health care professionals. Court documents state the obvious noting that it is standard medical practice for this information to be shared with medical providers and is a routine part of the intake process. Omitting medical history impairs the ability of future providers to provide adequate and effective care, thereby jeopardizing the health of this undocumented minor.

 

 

Congress

 

Bills that only passed in the HOUSE.

The Senate must also vote in the affirmative by the end of the Congressional session, which is January 3, 2018. If the Senate does not act, the bill dies and must be reintroduced during a subsequent session.

 

H.R. 7: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017

Sponsor: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

This bill permanently prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. The House bill has been languishing in the Senate Finance Committee since January 30, 2017.

 

Introduced                                Passed the House                      Vote
Jan 13, 2017                              Jan 24, 2017                              238-183

 

H.R. 1628: American Health Care Act of 2017

Sponsor: Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)

The American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA) passed the House and contained a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. The bill was sent to the Senate where a motion to proceed to a conference committee to negotiate a modified version of the bill failed, 49-51. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Collins (R-ME), Senator Murkowski (R-AK), and all Senate Democrats voted against it. 

 

Passed the House                      Vote                                                                                FAILED in Senate                    Vote
May 4, 2017                               217-213                                                                           May 4, 2017                                49-51

 

H.R. 36: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Sponsor: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)

Criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks, except in cases of incest, rape, or to save the mother’s life. The bill also contains protections for infants born alive during abortions. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1922. President Trump is committed to signing the bill if it passes the Senate.

 

Introduced                               Passed the House                      Vote

Jan. 3, 2017                             Oct. 3, 2017                                237-189

 

Companion Senate Bill:  S. 1922: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)              Introduced:  Oct 5, 2017

 

 

Bill that passed in both the HOUSE and SENATE.

 

H.R. 1: Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)

 

Passed the House                      Vote                                                                                  Passed the Senate                     Vote

Nov. 16, 2017                             227-205                                                                            Dec. 2, 2017                               51-49

 

The bill has been sent to conference committee to reconcile the different House and Senate versions. Trump has indicated that he will sign the bill. Both versions of the tax reform bill include the adoption tax credit, but efforts to amend the bill to extend educational savings accounts to include the unborn, and to make the child tax credit more inclusive of low-income families, and to include unborn children for purposes of the child tax credit failed.

 

Adoption Tax Credit

There was a strong possibility that the House Ways and Means Committee was going to eliminate the adoption tax credit from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but at the last minute, the Committee decided to retain the provision. Both the House and Senate versions of the tax reform bill contain the adoption tax credit. This credit allows adopting parents to apply costs incurred from the adoption to off-set their federal income tax liability. This usually results in a larger tax return.

 

The Rubio-Lee Amendment - Child Tax Credit Amendment

The Rubio-Lee amendment in the Senate would have applied the increased child tax credit to both income and payroll taxes. This amendment could have provided much-needed assistance to lower-income families who don’t currently earn enough money to benefit from the credit. The amendment fell far short of the votes needed to pass.

 

The Unborn and the Child Tax Credit

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced an amendment to the tax reform bill that would have allowed parents to claim a child tax credit for their unborn child. This amendment did not obtain the necessary votes and therefore was not part of the tax reform bill.

 

Education Saving Accounts for the Unborn

A provision allowing parents to open educational savings accounts for their children in-utero was included in the House version of the tax reform bill. Unfortunately, it was removed in the Senate.

 

 

 

     Winter 2018                                                                                                                                        Bioethics in Law & Culture                                                                                                                                          vol. 1    issue  1