Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Fresh funding

Life | Title X changes free up more funding for pro-life pregnancy centers, but should they take money?
by Leah Hickman
Posted 3/02/20, 05:21 pm

In 2019, a Christian pregnancy center moved into two sand-colored buildings on a shaded lot off the interstate in Austin, Texas. Those buildings previously housed the flagship location of an abortion business, but a competitive lease offer from the pro-life group forced the abortion mill out. Since then, the pro-life pregnancy care center now known as The Source has offered free medical and counseling services to women in the Texas capital.

Last year, The Source in Austin and seven other affiliated locations in Texas began offering contraception in another bid to compete with abortion businesses, this time for Title X family planning funds. Andy Schoonover, CEO of The Source, said his organization plans to apply through the federal grant program later this year.

Last year, the Trump administration proposed rules that have forced abortion businesses out of the Title X program and encouraged pro-life centers like The Source to apply. The rules state that Title X recipients cannot refer for abortions and must move their abortion services to separate facilities.

Some states and pro-abortion groups have challenged the new rules in court, and federal judges in California, Oregon, and Washington blocked the rules from taking effect. But last Monday, in an encouraging move for pro-life advocates, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judges’ decisions and upheld the requirements.

Planned Parenthood chose to withdraw completely from the Title X program rather than stop referring for abortions. Other groups that similarly prioritize abortion could also end up leaving Title X because of this decision.

The departures will have little effect on women seeking care. In the 80-page majority opinion of the 9th Circuit, Judge Sandra Ikuta noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only about 10 percent of Title X recipients offer abortions. Only 20 percent share locations with an abortion provider. When a recipient leaves the program, the money will be “redistributed in the same states and locations,” so local women will still have a place to seek help, said Jeanneane Maxon with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life think tank.

The 9th Circuit’s decision could reduce the number of abortion centers applying for Title X funds, making more federal family planning dollars available for some pro-life centers that offer contraceptives, like The Source.

“Our chances [of becoming a new Title X recipient] will be directly correlated with the number of clinics that have dropped out,” Schoonover said.

Catholics and other groups who have religious convictions against birth control sponsor many of the nation’s crisis pregnancy centers, though. Anne O’Connor from the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates said she did not expect a rush of Title X participation from pro-life clinics.

Other pro-life advocates warn against pursuing the funds at all. Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson said the ruling will force abortion businesses out of Title X and encourage the Trump administration to go after other title cash grants that prop up groups like Planned Parenthood. But Johnson said pro-life pregnancy centers should stay away from the Title X program: “It’s all about money and it’s not about healthcare, and it’s not about keeping women healthy. … This is not pro-life money by any means.”

Facebook/Sanctuary Cities For the Unborn Facebook/Sanctuary Cities For the Unborn The Waskom, Texas, city seal

The ACLU vs. sanctuary cities

Two pro-abortion organizations are suing nearly a dozen rural municipalities in Texas for passing ordinances that outlaw abortion within their town limits. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the official complaint on Tuesday on behalf of the Lilith Fund and the Texas Equal Access Fund, organizations that help women in Texas pay for abortions and related costs.

Since the summer of 2019, 11 Texas towns have declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.” The first town to do so, Waskom, is only 22 miles from the Shreveport, La., abortion facility at the center of a case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. Waskom officials learned that abortionists were considering opening up a new business in their town, so they criminalized the practice within their borders. Ten other Texas towns followed Waskom’s example and passed similar ordinances.

Mark Lee Dickson, the director of Right to Life of East Texas, said the rules are “a preventative measure since we don’t want abortion tourism happening in our towns.” Some pro-life leaders see potential problems with the sanctuary city measures. Joe Pojman with Texas Alliance for Life said the ordinances invite pushback from pro-abortion groups and, while Roe v. Wade remains in place, will not stand up to lawsuits like this one from the ACLU. —L.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Luisa Balaguer (file) Associated Press/Photo by Luisa Balaguer (file) Pro-life demonstrators outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Around the world

Argentina: President Alberto Fernández said he plans to send a bill to Congress to legalize abortion “at the initial time of pregnancy.” Like many South American countries, Argentina protects babies from abortion except in cases of rape or danger to the mother’s health. An effort to allow elective abortion failed in 2018, but it did not have backing from the president like this measure does.

Germany: The country’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled a 2015 law banning assisted suicide unconstitutional. The court said the German Constitution grants citizens the right to decide the time and circumstances of their deaths, which includes a right to seek physician-assisted suicide.

Canada: The government faces a July 2020 deadline to revise its euthanasia laws. Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin last year ruled Canada could not deny its citizens the so-called “right to die.” Revising the rules will require lawmakers to consider the legality of allowing patients with mental disabilities to access euthanasia, called “medical assistance in dying” in Canada.

Australia: Fifty-two patients in the state of Victoria have ended their lives through lethal medication in the past six months, according to a new report. When Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law took effect in June, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the government expected only about a dozen people to end their lives in the first year. —L.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Rogelio V. Solis (file) Associated Press/Photo by Rogelio V. Solis (file) A pro-life sidewalk counselor in Jackson, Miss.

Heartbeat bills struggle to stay alive

Last month, a panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling against a Mississippi law protecting babies from abortion after they have a detectable heartbeat, usually at about six weeks of gestation. Mississippi’s “heartbeat bill” was the first of several similar measures in other states to get shot down at the appellate level. Lower courts had blocked all of the 2019 heartbeat bills, including Mississippi’s, by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, lawyers on both sides of a suit over a Georgia heartbeat law have asked a judge to decide on the legislation without bringing the case to trial. Pro-abortion opponents, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, call the law unconstitutional in light of Roe v. Wade. But pro-life supporters say those advocacy groups have no grounds for an appeal since they are not the women affected by the law.

As last year’s heartbeat laws face court battles, other states continue to consider similar bills. The House Judiciary Committee in New Hampshire heard testimony for a heartbeat bill in January. Another similar bill in Oklahoma passed in a state Senate committee last month and is headed to the Senate floor. —L.H.

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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    Posted: Wed, 03/04/2020 04:35 am

    People who spend time in front of abortion clinics are very brave.

  • TWH
    Posted: Thu, 03/05/2020 07:47 am

    The news reporting is sterling, as always, but the headline was jolting. Not something to jest about in any way.