Advancing protections for life

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2017

Congress is in the heat of appropriations season, which is when bills funding the various functions of the government are crafted, debated, amended, and ultimately passed. Serving on the Appropriations Committee gives me a seat at the table for this process and offers me the opportunity to push for priorities that are important to Alabamians. Sometimes that happens in the form of funding levels, like ensuring the Defense Appropriations bill includes funding for Alabama-based military missions or supporting increased funding for NASA in the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. Other times it happens by way of writing certain conditions into a funding bill to ensure federal agencies use taxpayers’ money properly.

That was the case last week in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies. As a pro-life conservative, I have fought against the practice of agencies steering public health dollars to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. In 2015, the nation was shocked by the revelation that Planned Parenthood officials systematically altered abortion procedures in order to preserve unborn babies’ organs and sell them to researchers.

I said at the time that you don’t have to be staunchly pro-life like me to be unnerved by the harvesting and trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts for profit. While this scandal may have left the front page, my pro-life colleagues and I have not stopped working to prevent these atrocities.

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In response to this heartbreaking situation, I worked to have a provision preventing this practice included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee funding bill. This pro-life section of the bill aims to cut off any incentive abortion providers might have to harvest and sell organs by prohibiting any funding for research performed on tissue obtained from abortions. Section 528 of the bill states, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to conduct or support research using human fetal tissue if such tissue is obtained pursuant to an induced abortion.” Instead, the bill directs agencies to fund research using modern, more efficient alternatives to human fetal tissue.

I am a very strong supporter of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their research is critical for the discovery and development of lifesaving medical breakthroughs. However, I believe we must set a clear line of distinction between what is acceptable and what is not. Every human life is precious, and our laws and policies should reflect that.

The bill also contains other important pro-life provisions, including a measure that expressly prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from steering public health funding to abortion providers. The law already forbids federal funds from being used to perform abortions, but during the Obama Administration, HHS steered millions to Planned Parenthood in the form of grants and reimbursements for other services like pregnancy tests, birth control, and more. For years I’ve argued that this practice provides a pipeline of funding to prop up the nation’s largest abortion provider. That is an abuse of taxpayer dollars, and I’m pleased to report our funding bill cuts off that pipeline.

The Trump Administration has demonstrated a firm commitment to stopping taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. On just the second day of his presidency, President Trump issued an executive order reinstating former President Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy that blocks federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that provide or promote abortions.

I am unapologetically pro-life, and I believe it is Congress’ enduring responsibility to do all we can to protect those who cannot protect themselves. I appreciate my colleague Chairman Tom Cole for including these important pro-life provisions in our subcommittee’s base bill. I look forward to working with my other pro-life colleagues to see it through the entire legislative process. I will keep you updated as we progress.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.