Editorials

Counting the Ways Which Threaten Life

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In a series of under-the-radar moves, the Biden administration has shifted some longstanding policies about abortion access that loosen the few measures aimed at discouraging women from resorting to the procedure while promoting their health and safety.

In a diverse, pluralistic society such as ours, there will always be people with differing views on a variety of critical issues, and our leaders must find ways to recognize and respect those differences.

Abortion is certainly one such issue, but it’s also unique in that it’s about more than differing political views. It is, rather, an issue of the highest moral order: Literally, the right to life of another human being. And, as such, it’s deserving of more than an offhand stroke of a policymaker’s pen to adjust and expand its reach.

We call on the president and his administration to reverse these moves.

To take one example, Biden’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed rescinding the Trump administration’s enforcement of a Title X ban on taxpayer funds from being used to promote or provide abortion as family planning.

The ban on taxpayer funds for this purpose has been in place since enactment of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970. But it’s repeatedly been co-opted by abortion supporters “as a funding stream for organizations, programs and facilities that directly promote and provide abortions,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Archbishop Naumann, in calling for Trump’s “Protect Life Rule” to remain in place, called the proposal to rescind the rule “a terrible policy.”

We agree. It is a terrible policy.

The federal law and congressional intent were clear and explicit in 1970 that abortion must not be part of the Title X program. There’s absolutely no reason to change it now.

The Title X proposal follows the omission of a broader decades-long abortion policy from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package signed into law March 11 by Biden. The U.S. bishops praised the plan for its positive provisions aimed at relieving the desperate financial strains felt by many Americans during the pandemic.

But the bishops rightly criticized it for leaving out language from the 1976 Hyde Amendment that prevents taxpayers’ money from being used to fund abortion. All previous pandemic relief bills included Hyde Amendment language.

This latest one should have included it as well.

The measure with the potential for especially serious harm is the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s acting commissioner to suspend enforcement of the agency’s in-person prescribing requirement for the abortion drug mifepristone, also known as RU-486, which is used to end pregnancies in the first 10 weeks.

Billed as a temporary measure for the pandemic, the decision allows clinics to distribute the drug via telemedicine, directly by mail or through a mail-order pharmacy.

But without a medical evaluation in person, there is no way to accurately determine the age of the unborn baby, even though the pills are considered safe only for pregnancies of 70 days or less.

There also is no way to determine whether a pregnancy is ectopic, a life- threatening complication of an embryo implanting in the Fallopian tube instead of the womb, and no way to test and treat for Rh-incompatibility between mother and baby, which could threaten future pregnancies.

All in all, there’s a bundle of bad news for women and their pro-life supporters coming from this administration.

“The inalienable dignity of women and their unborn children deserves so much more,” Archbishop Naumann said.

That is certainly true.

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