It seems President Trump really is trying to bring back the Reagan years. Back in March, he rehired an old Reagan official, Lawrence Kudlow. Now, it seems he’s all set to bring back the ban on abortion counseling at federally funded family clinics – and a good portion of Congress is behind him. More than 150 U.S. Representatives and over 40 Senators wrote letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Alex Azar denouncing the practice of co-location – the sharing of space between family clinics and abortion providers. If Trump signs off on this, it could mean a dramatic drop in abortion numbers nationwide; that’s lives saved. But does that make the rule itself appropriate?
Today’s argument isn’t about whether abortion should be legal or if anyone has the right to kill someone outside of defensive situations. This topic has been covered here many times before – though it certainly bears repeating: There is no right to kill another human as a matter of convenience – even if the victim is an unborn child – and abortion can never serve as justice.
Right or wrong, the law currently allows women to terminate their pregnancies. However, they’re not supposed to force taxpayers – who must pay up regardless of philosophical, political, or religious beliefs – to cover the expense.
Title X is the nation’s family-planning program, and it covers family planning expenses for about four million women annually. According to the DHHS funding history, Title X has cost the taxpayers no less than $275,000,000 per year for the last 14 years. And Title X is not allowed to fund any abortion services.
A number of congressmen have decried the practice of co-location, and there’s a solid argument in their favor. Title X funds can’t support abortion services. Even if they aren’t given to reimburse actual abortions, what about the other services that go with? If this money pays for a pregnancy test, a counseling session in which the doctor suggests or pushes termination, the required ultrasound, and any other lab work or counseling that leads up to an abortion, is that not the same as funding the procedure itself? What about any after-abortion care?
Even if no facility ever receives any funding for any service to a woman who ultimately chooses to end the pregnancy, the money still, in a way, helps fund abortions. Even if it goes to pay for very specific services to people who don’t abort, that money still helps cover the operating expenses of an abortion clinic.
According to Fox, Jessica Marcella of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association claims that separating abortion providers from planning clinics would disrupt service for women nationwide. That’s the same old argument uses to fight voter ID requirements. Those poor minorities, they just can’t make it to the Revenue office to get a driver’s license or state ID – never mind the fact that government-issued photo identification is required to drive, buy tobacco or alcohol, fly, get a job, receive government benefits, open a bank account, or buy or rent a car or home.
So what, women can’t go to two different locations in the same town? There’s no requirement that abortionists set up shop at least a certain number of miles away – they just can’t share the same building. Even if they had to be on opposite sides of the city, if getting an abortion isn’t important enough to find a ride across town or hoof it, then why bother arguing for it as a right?
The Gag Rule
The real issue with this ban is that it prevents doctors from discussing abortion as an option with their patients. The pro-abortion folks claim that it violates the doctor-patient relationship. “It would allow politicians to insert themselves into exam rooms,” complained Alison Bates, a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood of Portland.
Hyperbole aside, the abortionists are right this time. The doctor-patient relationship requires the medical professional fully inform their patients about their conditions and options. Since abortion is, unfortunately, currently a legal medical procedure, banning doctors from even discussing it clearly crosses the line. For that matter, how can we square it with the First Amendment?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (underlining added to highlight relevance)
A Tough Pill to Swallow
The killing of an unborn child – any child, really – is especially heinous. They have the same right to life as anyone else – but they lack the ability to defend it. How many lives would this ban save? How many women would terminate their pregnancies if their doctors either couldn’t discuss it or actively counseled against it?
The knowledge that this rule would almost certainly prevent many deaths makes this a tough pill to swallow – but prohibiting doctors from discussing abortion with their patients tramples all over both the doctor-patient relationship and the First Amendment. Generally, any victory is welcome in the war against abortion – but at what point do the costs outweigh the gains?