On January 9, 2014, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The bill was given a hearing by the pro-life subcommittee chairman, Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks.
National Right to Life News Today reports that H.R. 7 would “permanently prohibit subsidies for abortion and health insurance coverage of abortion in federal programs – both within longstanding federal programs and within the health care law signed by President Obama in 2010.” If passed, the legislation would cause elective abortion insurance coverage in the Affordable Care Act to cease.
The subcommittee heard testimonies in support of H.R 7 from Helen Alvare, a pro-life professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, and Richard Doerflinger, associate director and secretariat of pro-life activities for the United States Conference of Catholic bishops. An opposing testimony was given by Susan Wood, associate professor of health policy and of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.
I found Helen Alvare’s testimony particularly compelling. Alvare is a brillant and accomplished woman. Along with being a professor of law at George Mason, she is chair of the Task Force on Conscience Protection of the Witherspoon Institute, chair of the Catholic Women’s Forum, a consultant for the Pontifical Council of the Laity in Vatican City, an advisor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and an ABC news consultant. In 2012, Salon magazine called her “birth control’s worst enemy” in regards to an article she wrote against the HHS contraception mandate.
In her testimony concerning H.R. 7, Helen made two key points. Her first point was that American lawmakers and citizens don’t subscribe to the belief that abortion is a public good meriting funding. Secondly, she made it clear that abortion is not a part of any genuine “women’s health” agenda according to the federal government’s own statements.
For her first point, Alvare expressed that abortion is understood by lawmakers and citizens to be different from all other programs and projects that receive federal funding. She stated that the federal budget is devoted to things like national security, health care, education, and safe food and drugs. The budget supports things that protect and cause the American people to prosper and grow. She made the case that abortion is something the government shouldn’t support by quoting the Supreme Court justices who acknowledged it as the “purposeful termination of potential human life.” She believes that the Court got its biology wrong when it referred to the unborn as potential human lives instead of what they are – actual living human beings. She quotes Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in Gonzales v. Carhart who said abortion “extinguishes life and kills.”
Secondly, Alvare claims that the federal government is “decidedly uncurious” about the role abortion plays respecting women’s health. She says the Center for Disease Control doesn’t require mandatory reporting by the states and doesn’t have complete or standardized data on abortion. She lists major government health initiatives for women that don’t raise the subject of any health “need” for abortion or abortion funding.
Alvare also references a study by the Rand Corporation that reported attitudes on abortion over decades. According to that study, women are a few percentage points more pro-life than men, the less educated are more pro-life than the educationally privileged, and the poor are more pro-life than the wealthy. This data is especially relevant in light of the the arguments of those who support abortion because they claim it’s a needed service for the poor and underprivileged.
Watching Alvare’s video testimony filled me with hope. It’s inspiring to see an educated, passionate woman who refuses to make peace with abortion and isn’t afraid to tell the government, “Abortion is not a social good deserving of federal funding, let alone funding in the name of women’s health or well-being.”