A coalition of nearly 80 pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, recently released a “Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice” that outlines their vision for the future of abortion: no restrictions, no religious exemptions, and funded by the government.
The groups described the document as a “proactive policy agenda to advance sexual and reproductive health in the United States and around the world.”
The blueprint called for legislation to “end the Hyde Amendment and related restrictions and ensure that everyone has abortion coverage, regardless of their income or source of insurance.” Internationally, these groups would like to replace the Helms Amendment restriction on taxpayer funding for abortion overseas with an “endorsement of using U.S. funding for safe abortion services worldwide.”
That position is out of step with the views of the majority of Americans, including Democrats. January polling from Marist found that 54% of Americans oppose any taxpayer funding of abortion. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from June found that 41% of Democratic women support the Hyde Amendment compared to 39% who oppose it.
Dr. Donna Harrison, a physician and executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, noted in response to the blueprint that “most Americans do not support killing human beings in the womb, especially after 22 weeks, when those tiny children could live outside of their mother’s womb.”
“It is remarkable,” she added, “that the abortion groups’ blueprint could so arrogantly ignore the human being in the womb.”
Targeting Conscience Protections
The document also called to remove conscience protections for health-care providers who object to abortion as well as new legislation that prevents religious health-care providers from refusing to participate in an abortion.
The coalition of groups went after the Weldon Amendment, an annual appropriations rider that prevents federal, state and local governments receiving federal funds from discriminating against health-care entities that decline to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
The groups claimed the amendment “prioritizes a provider’s personal beliefs over a patient’s health needs” and called for the administration to “remove the Weldon Amendment from the annual budget” and for Congress to “pass a Labor-HHS spending bill that is free of this rider.”
They also seek to eliminate the HHS Office of Conscience and Religious Freedom, which, they claimed, “carries out discriminatory policies such as the Weldon Amendment” and “emboldens discrimination and care refusal.”
They urged the passage of the “Do No Harm Act,” which would amend the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to specify that religious exceptions should not apply to “access to, information about, referrals for, provision of, or coverage for, any health-care item or service.”
The blueprint said that “one in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that complies with Catholic directives that prohibit a range of reproductive health-care services,” including abortion and “gender-affirming care to transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming patients.”
The groups argued that the government should step in and mandate that Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals provide these things.
“The administration and Congress must develop policies to ensure that hospitals and other health facilities do not refuse appropriate reproductive health-care services, information and referrals, regardless of their religious affiliation, including strong guidance, oversight and enforcement … to ensure that facilities comply,” the groups urged.
The majority of Americans (55%) believe that medical professionals with moral objections to abortion should be allowed to opt out of performing them, according to a January Marist poll.
Melanie Israel, a research associate at the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, told the Register that it’s “pretty amazing” to see these groups spell out “so aggressively how much they’re opposed to conscience protections because that’s something that’s very, very extreme.”
“These conscience protections have been on the books with bipartisan support for decades and decades,” she noted, “and it’s even something that was addressed in the Roe v. Wade decision itself, talking about the need to ensure that, for example, somebody who opposes abortion won’t be forced to perform one.”
Israel theorized that these groups were alarmed by courts siding with Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor in their cases defending their faith-based objections to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.
“I think that really, in some ways, caused a panic,” she said. “They started seeing that courts were siding with people who have religious and moral objections, and so, in a lot of ways, I think this is a response to that.”
Eliminating State Restrictions
The pro-abortion coalition is also pushing to do away with parental-notification requirements for minors seeking an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 37 states currently require parental involvement in a minor’s abortion decision.
“While most young people under 18 do involve their parents in their abortion decisions, requiring parental involvement can put them at risk in homes with dysfunctional family environments,” the groups argued. “Parental-involvement policies put young people who are victims of sexual and physical assault, incest or neglect at further risk of physical harm or being kicked out of their homes. Parental-involvement laws are an attempt to delay abortion procedures.”
This is not the only area in which the groups seek to undermine the will of the states on the issue of abortion, as they called for the passage of the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would end virtually all state limits on abortions, including waiting periods and 20-week bans.
The blueprint also called for increasing the availability and awareness of “self-managed abortion (SMA),” a term some abortion lobbyists employ in reference to abortions initiated by pregnant women on their own.
“There is no legitimate public-health reason to prevent people from having access to the means to self-manage their abortion,” they wrote. “Increased awareness about self-managed abortion, safe methods and means of access — achieved through culturally competent communications accessible to people of all educational levels — will help destigmatize self-managed abortion.”
“Destigmatization will, in turn, ensure that people who end their own pregnancies will feel safe to seek medical care, and it will lessen the likelihood of criminalization,” the groups claimed. “Criminalization of self-managed and supported nonclinical abortion poses serious threats to people’s health.”
“Self-managed” abortions using abortion pills can be met with criminal penalties in seven states, according to Guttmacher. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned an overseas abortion-pill provider to stop deliveries to the U.S., as “drugs that have circumvented regulatory safeguards may be contaminated; counterfeit, contain varying amounts of active ingredients, or contain different ingredients altogether.”
This prompted pro-abortion lobbyists, including many of the abortion groups in the coalition, to send a letter to the FDA asking to remove “medically unnecessary restrictions” on abortion pills.
In order to enforce this vision of free abortions at any stage in pregnancy with or without the involvement of a medical provider, the concluding section of the 110-page abortion blueprint argues that judicial and executive nominees need to declare that the Constitution protects the right to have an abortion.
The abortion groups also called on Congress to create a “Reproductive Health Care Provider Service Corps,” which would “incentivize providers to provide the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, in underserved areas.”
Democratic Party Support
Tom McClusky, the president of March for Life Action, told the Register that while this blueprint may seem extreme, it’s the same agenda these groups have had “for about 20 years or so. The only difference now is that it’s also part of the Democratic platform.”
McClusky pointed to recent health-care bills introduced by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, like the Medicare for All Act, which “go after the pro-life riders” like the Hyde Amendment, and added that “the Equality Act also included restrictions on or elimination of pro-life riders.”
“I only bring that up because every single Democrat voted for [the Equality Act], even those who claim to be pro-life,” he said. “So that’s how much power that lobby now has within the Democratic Party.”
McClusky said that the extent to which Democrats have united around the abortion lobby’s agenda could mean “that maybe we need to be a little more bold than we are on the pro-life side.”
The lineup of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are not far off the abortion groups’ vision for the future on the issue, as none of them have backed any restrictions on abortion, and they are united in their support for overturning the Hyde Amendment and fully funding abortions.
Melanie Israel also observed that “these well-funded organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL — they’ve kind of done a takeover. They’re the ones calling the shots with what the left says about abortion in America.”
“They’re just completely out of touch,” she said. “It’s pretty obvious to people who are paying attention just how out of touch they are; but at the same time if the American people are willing to look the other way on this issue, then, unfortunately, people are going to wake up one day and be surprised to find that taxpayer dollars are paying for abortion and that there’s no restrictions.”
Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.