Author archives: Ruth Moreno

Biden’s Cabinet (Part 5): Abortion Extremist Neera Tanden May Soon Be Replaced With Another – Shalanda Young

by Ruth Moreno

March 11, 2021

This is Part 5 of a blog series examining the records of President Biden’s Cabinet picks on abortion and family issues. Read previous posts on Antony BlinkenXavier BecerraJennifer Granholm, and Marcia Fudge.

President Biden’s latest cabinet pick is another pro-abortion extremist. After Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget was withdrawn over her radical policy positions, many senators, including Republicans, rallied around Shalanda Young, his nominee to be Deputy Director of OMB as an alternative to Tanden. Unfortunately, during her nomination hearing, it was revealed that Young opposes both the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment, bipartisan measures meant to prevent tax dollars from funding abortion and protect the conscience rights of pro-life Americans.

Young’s responses to Senator James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) questions for the record after a March 4 committee hearing confirm these radical positions. When asked about the Hyde Amendment, which has stopped taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for elective abortions since 1976, Young responded as follows:

If confirmed I will follow the laws put forth by Congress and signed by the President. The President has spoken in favor of Congress ending the Hyde Amendment as part of his commitment to providing comprehensive health care for all women. Further, eliminating the Hyde Amendment is a matter of economic and racial justice because it most significantly impacts Medicaid recipients, who are low-income and more likely to be women of color.

Young’s response, far from being a straightforward statement about the law or about the Biden administration’s policy agenda, suggests that she is an active supporter of the elimination of the Hyde Amendment. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said as much when he explained why he voted against confirming Young:

I had planned to support Ms. Young based on her testimony before the committee,” Portman said. “In reviewing her answers to the committee’s questions for the record, though, I’ve got to say I was really troubled by her responses, particularly her strong advocacy for eliminating the Hyde amendment.”

Young’s position on the Weldon Amendment is equally worrisome. The Weldon Amendment, which protects individuals who have a religious or moral objection to participating in an abortion, has been included in funding bills since 2005. This important conscience protection withholds federal funding from agencies or programs that discriminate against health care providers that do not pay for or promote abortion, but Young’s response when asked about the Weldon Amendment did not suggest her support:

If confirmed I will follow the laws put forth by Congress and signed by the President. The President has laid out a health care plan that would provide comprehensive health care for all women, including reproductive health care services.

Young gave Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) nearly identical responses, adding that if she is confirmed to the position as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, she “will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to determine the effect the Weldon Amendment has on healthcare implementation, especially vulnerable populations.”

Young is right that public servants should consider the needs of vulnerable populations, but abortion is not the solution. Forcing pro-life Americans to fund a practice they believe is morally equivalent to murder and penalizing health care providers with religious or moral objections to abortion does nothing for the needy. Young should know better than to disguise her opposition to the Hyde and Weldon amendments as concern for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.

Key Trump Administration Officials Show How Religious Freedom Is Being Defended at Home and Abroad

by Ruth Moreno

October 28, 2020

On October 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held an insightful virtual panel event on the importance of protecting religious liberty both domestically and internationally. The event, titled “Religious Freedom in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond,” addressed how the current pandemic has affected the national and international dialogue on religious liberty.

The Freedom of Religion Is “Essential”

Much has been said about the threats to religious liberty posed by overbearing officials here in the United States. Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the HHS, emphasized during Tuesday’s panel that as the COVID-19 pandemic claims more and more lives, we must be prepared to ask the question: what do people live for?

For many people, Severino said, “it is their belief in God and religious community.” This means we may need to rethink what we mean when we talk about what counts as an “essential” service.

We really tread on dangerous waters when we’re picking and choosing what counts as essential versus not, when part of human nature is to seek the transcendent and express it according to your best lights,” Severino said.

He also spoke more broadly about how the federal government has been working hard to uphold religious liberty and freedom of conscience, saying it “should not be up for debate. It should be beyond dispute just like every other civil right.”

Claire Murray, who serves as an Associate Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ), reminded panelists that “There’s no pandemic exception to the Constitution” regarding religious freedom. Within the DOJ, Murray has worked to make sure religious organizations are not singled out by state and local leaders. Since the beginning of the government-enforced lockdowns, the DOJ has filed six amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

Murray also addressed the continuing controversy over the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order which was exempted from certain parts of the Affordable Care Act and associated mandates which would have forced them to violate their religious beliefs about contraception and abortion. Murray said that President Trump’s 2017 Executive Order on the protection of religious liberty has helped guide the federal government as it continues dealing with challenges and settlements in lower federal courts.

Progress in Protecting the Rights of Believers Around the World

Yet domestic religious freedom policy work is only part of the story; many more good efforts are being undertaken overseas. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback and Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, the United States’ Permanent Representative to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, both spoke at length about the United States’ mission to protect religious liberty internationally, which Brownback called “a centerpiece of policy.”

Ambassador Brownback also remarked on some unexpected religious freedom developments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several countries have released prisoners of conscience for fear that they will contract the virus, which Brownback applauded as “good news.” However, Brownback also warned against the scapegoating of religious minorities who have spread the virus within their communities and said that he has been “pushing back against that aggressively.”

Brownback concluded that the overall trendline has been positive, while Bremberg noted he is still “deeply concerned about governments around the world” using COVID to suppress religious freedom, and reminded panelists that the current focus on the pandemic has allowed the world’s worst human rights abusers to get away with their atrocities. Ambassador Bremberg spoke specifically about religious persecution in Russia, Nigeria, and especially in China.

Although the United Nations (UN) has an office dedicated to religious liberty, Bremberg regrets the silence which has come over many in the international community regarding the persecution of Uyghur Muslim minorities in China. Still, though, the United States has pressed ahead in promoting religious liberty, and Bremberg hopes other countries will look to us, and not to China, as a model.

Brownback agreed, saying “You’ve got a fundamental choice between the Chinese model and the U.S. model on religious freedom … The U.S. says, ‘you are free to do what you want with your soul. It’s a God-given right. No government has the right to interfere with it.’”

The United States’ tradition of religious liberty is inspired by our Declaration of Independence, but Ambassador Bremberg emphasized that the United States should not have to fight alone. The UN lists religious liberty as a fundamental right in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and though there is much work to be done, the international community has made some progress in protecting this right for all people.

Today, many countries still have apostasy and blasphemy laws so strict that changing one’s faith or otherwise violating these laws is enough to give one the death penalty. Under the Trump administration, the United States has formed an International Religious Freedom Alliance with 30 other countries and several more which may join. The Alliance has worked to protect religious rights in conflict zones and do away with these atrocious apostasy and blasphemy laws.

Ambassador Bremberg closed the panel with a further call to action: “Will we choose to protect, defend, [and] fight for, fundamental human rights established over 70 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the right for religious freedom? Or will we not fight for them?”

All Americans Should Stand for Religious Liberty

Fighting for religious liberty, both at home and abroad, takes a lot of time and effort. The rise of secularism and the devaluing of the religious voice, as Severino said, have threatened people’s rights to exercise their faith as they see fit. It is the duty of all Americans, of all faiths, to stand up and fight for religious liberty alongside Severino, Murray, Brownback, Bremberg, and other members of the Trump administration who have worked so hard to protect this most fundamental right.

For several years now, key Trump administration officials like those at this HHS event have been attempting to diligently implement the administration’s religious freedom policies, often in the face of much opposition. They and many others within the executive branch have been fighting for our rights day-in and day-out, often with little credit. As we approach a presidential election, it’s appropriate to take note of the many positive religious liberty developments that have actually occurred under the Trump administration.

To find out more about what the administration has been doing to protect religious freedom, both at home and abroad, please see the full list of the Trump administration’s accomplishments at PrayVoteStand.org

Despite Roe Polling, a Majority of Americans Support Stronger Abortion Restrictions

by Laura Grossberndt , Katherine Beck Johnson , Ruth Moreno

October 23, 2020

Opinion polls reveal some cognitive dissonance in Americans’ minds concerning abortion laws. Although most Americans say they support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, most also favor significant abortion restrictions. Why the seeming inconsistency?

First, some background. In Roe, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is protected under the U.S. Constitution. This decision struck down many state laws that had restricted abortion. It also severely limited the extent to which states could write their own abortion laws. The Court correlated the permissibility of different kinds of abortions to the three trimesters of pregnancy:

  • First trimester: States cannot restrict abortion.
  • Second trimester: Regulations designed to protect a pregnant woman’s health, but not to further a state’s interest in potential life, are permitted.
  • Third trimester: States can completely outlaw abortion, except when “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Under Roe, no restrictions on abortion in the second or third trimesters are mandated and are forbidden in the first trimester. Therefore, abortion through all nine months of pregnancy is the default unless Congress or the individual states pass laws restricting it.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey did away with Roe’s trimester framework and created a new rule: a state cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s attempt to obtain an abortion pre-viability.

National polls indicate strong support for Roe. Sixty percent (Gallup) and 66 percent (NBC News) of Americans support it, while only 29 percent of Americans favor overturning it (NBC News). Roe, then, appears to be a settled court case in the minds of the American people.

However, polls indicate a greater variation in Americans’ opinions when it comes to abortion itself. Only 27 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal “in all cases” (ABC News by Langer Research Associates), and seven in 10 Americans would like to see abortion limited to the first three months of pregnancy at most (Knights of Columbus and Marist). The latter poll found that 52 percent of Americans think women should be required to see an ultrasound of her unborn child prior to receiving an abortion. Furthermore, the poll found that 80 percent of Americans think laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child.

A mere 18 percent of Americans support the legalization of abortion up until birth (NPR and Marist), and 54 percent want to see more restrictions on abortion than there currently are (CBS). Sixty-five percent of Americans support a required 24-hour waiting period for an abortion (The Kaiser Family Foundation). Like the Knights of Columbus and Marist poll, the Kaiser poll found that 52 percent support a mandatory ultrasound viewing by mothers.

Why this seeming inconsistency between the American public’s opinions on Roe and abortion itself? Tim Carney of the American Enterprise Institute posits an answer: a poll’s outcome depends on how the survey questions are asked. Many Americans are unaware of what Roe actually says about abortion, mistakenly believing that it only protects abortion through the first few months of pregnancy. When asked whether they would like to see Roe overturned, most Americans say no, because most Americans are neither entirely pro-life nor pro-choice. Instead, most Americans favor abortion laws that restrict most abortions but provide exceptions for early-term abortions, abortions in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s health or life is in grave danger.

Roe v. Wade permits abortion in far more circumstances than these. If survey respondents knew that Roe essentially allows abortion in all cases at any stage in pregnancy up to the moment of birth, support for the court decision would probably plummet among Americans with more moderate views. Americans’ ignorance serves the pro-choice lobby and is likely why polls indicate public support for Roe.

As long as the largely pro-choice mainstream media can convince moderates that Roe v. Wade aligns with their beliefs, the Supreme Court will feel pressured into upholding its 1973 decision despite the fact that it goes against the will of the American people.

To see where your state stacks up on permitting later-term abortion under Roe, see our state-by-state pro-life map.

Ted Cruz is Right: Certain FDA-approved Birth Control Can Cause Abortions

by Laura Grossberndt , Ruth Moreno

October 15, 2020

During the second day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked the Supreme Court nominee about threats to religious liberty. Cruz correctly pointed out that certain kinds of birth control pills induce abortion and criticized the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) attempt to fine religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor “in order to force them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, among others.”

Planned Parenthood responded to Sen. Cruz’s remarks with a tweet contradicting Cruz and asserting that birth control cannot cause an abortion.

Despite mainstream media outlets framing the situation as Planned Parenthood “correcting” Sen. Cruz, it is actually Planned Parenthood who is in the wrong. Cruz referred to abortion-inducing drugs, “among others.” Of course, not all forms of birth control cause abortions. However, some do, including the notorious “morning-after pill” Plan B and a newer, lesser-known FDA-approved drug called Ella (also known as ulipristal acetate or Ella-One).

The FDA misleadingly labels Ella a more effective “Emergency Contraception.” Like Plan B, Ella can cause an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg (embryo) from implanting in the uterus. But unlike Plan B, Ella can also terminate a pregnancy after the embryo has already implanted. It does this by starving the embryo of a chemical known as progesterone, which the embryo needs in order to continue developing inside the uterus. By inhibiting progesterone, Ella functions similarly to the “abortion pill” mifepristone (also known as Mifeprex or RU-486), which is used to end the lives of babies in the first trimester. Like mifepristone, Ella can induce abortions both pre- and post-implantation.

Numerous studies reported by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) show that Ella causes abortions in animals, including macaques, close relatives to monkeys. Researchers have also concluded that just a 30-milligram dose of Ella will abort human babies.

Ella’s proponents claim that the drug will not interfere with pregnancy because it is only approved for use within five days of sexual intercourse, and implantation usually occurs six to 10 days after fertilization. Although Ella’s online provider, Project Ruby, requires a prescription, it does not require an in-person examination from a doctor prior to purchase. Planned Parenthood itself attempts to create confusion by calling Ella a type of “morning-after pill” when, in reality, the pill can be taken for several days after having intercourse.

Planned Parenthood should get its fact straight before criticizing Sen. Cruz’s valid concerns about abortifacient drugs and the federal government’s attempts to force religious groups to pay for them. By propagating the lie that birth control is always contraceptive and never abortifacient, Planned Parenthood continues to mislead countless women about their options before and after becoming pregnant. Women have the right to know what drugs can do to their own bodies and those of their unborn children.

Planned Parenthood is also failing to treat a complex discussion about health care and religious liberty with appropriate nuance. Fortunately, the court case involving the ACA and the Little Sisters of the Poor was decided in support of the Little Sisters’ right to freedom of conscience. However, many of our nation’s officials, both elected and unelected, would have liked to see the case settled differently. Religious liberty is the most fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment, but it is under attack from those who would rather see an overbearing federal government force religious organizations, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their consciences.

Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.

House Resolution Coerces Members to Support Abortion Rights

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Ruth Moreno

October 9, 2020

Earlier this month, a former employee at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia filed a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that hysterectomies were being performed on detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center without appropriate informed consent. The U.S. House of Representatives has responded by passing a resolution condemning all perpetrators and calling for them to be held accountable.

House Resolution 1153, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), justly condemns the performance of “unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures on individuals without their full, informed consent.” Unfortunately, House Democrats couldn’t resist inserting partisan language into what ought to have been a straightforward and bipartisan resolution. The resolution’s second clause states that “everyone deserves to control their own reproductive choices and make informed choices about their bodies.” This begs the question: to what kinds of reproductive choices is the clause referring? The Democrat-controlled House most likely intends the so-called “right” to abortion, ignoring the rights of the unborn in the same breath as condemning ICE for violating the rights of women.

This resolution would not be the first time Democrats have embraced antithetical positions regarding human rights violations and abortion. Although Democrats insist human rights and abortion are one and the same, abortion is the very opposite of human rights, because every successful abortion ends a human life. It should also be noted that the abortion industry, which has long backed Democrat candidates, has a troubled history with eugenics. Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was a eugenicist who viewed abortion and birth control as a means of controlling the population of the “unfit.” While Planned Parenthood’s current leadership may publicly disavow eugenics, many of its abortion facilities are situated in minority communities, and women of color are statistically much more likely to obtain abortions in the U.S. than white women.

Democrats are also slow to condemn the atrocity of forced abortion, which happens in many nations around the world, including the most populous country, China. Even here in America, many women who obtain abortions report having felt coerced into that decision by friends, family members, or boyfriends.

In many parts of the world, unborn children are aborted due to unwanted physical or mental disabilities, or even for being female. Iceland prides itself on having nearly “eradicated” Down syndrome, but in reality, the only reason the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased in that country is because children diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are often killed prior to birth via abortion. In India, where sex-selective abortion is rampant, a new study has shown that there might be as many as 6.8 million fewer girls than boys born between 2017 and 2030.

House Democrats are right to condemn the practice of forcing hysterectomies on non-consenting women. The allegations raised against ICE at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that all offenders are brought to justice. By dragging abortion into H.Res. 1153, however, Democrats have created a needless roadblock to bipartisanship while also highlighting their hypocrisy on the issue of human rights.

In response to the partisan H.Res. 1153, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) introduced the Informed Consent Act (H.R. 8498), which would prohibit any abortion or sterilization procedure performed without informed consent and impose a 10-year penalty on anyone who violates this provision. The issue of forced abortion and sterilization should not be co-opted as a means of promoting legal abortion. If Democrats truly had women’s best interests in mind, they would support H.R. 8498 and condemn any violence done to women and their unborn children.

Presidential Order Recognizes All Newborn Life is Precious

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Ruth Moreno

September 30, 2020

On September 25, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) that reinforces existing protections for children born premature, with disabilities, or in medical distress, including infants who survive abortion. The Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children responds to credible concerns that some hospitals have refused to provide medical screening and stabilizing treatment to such children because “they believe[d] these infants may not survive, may have to live with long-term disabilities, or may have a quality-of-life deemed to be inadequate.” However, such refusals violate multiple federal laws, as the EO explains.

An EO is not a new law. Rather, it is a directive from the president instructing the executive branch on how to enforce existing law. This particular EO is primarily concerned with ensuring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) properly enforces three existing laws:

Specifically, HHS must ensure:

  • all federal funding recipients understand their obligations toward vulnerable children;
  • all federal funding recipients provide medical screening examinations, stabilizing treatments, or transfers when needed;
  • all federal funding recipients provide these services to all children, regardless of disability;
  • violation complaints regarding medical care for newborns and infants are investigated;
  • disability discrimination complaints can be filed on the HHS website; and
  • research into treatments for infants born with emergency medical conditions and programs that train medical personnel to care for said infants are prioritized.

This EO clarifies medical protocols for infants born with disabilities or who survive abortion. However, the executive branch is limited to enforcing the laws that already exist. A legislative fix is necessary to provide true legal protections for infants who survive abortion. Since 2006, five states have reported at least 179 cases in which an infant has survived an abortion. Because not all states report this data, the 179 cases we do know about do not even begin to paint the full picture of the number of abortion survivors in the United States. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is a bill before Congress that would legally require medical professionals to give the same level of care to infants that survive abortion as they would to any infant born at the same gestational age, and include criminal and civil penalties for any physician that fails to give appropriate care to these infants.

Unfortunately, pro-abortion politicians have fallen victim to the abortion industry’s lies. They have halted every effort in Congress to denounce infanticide and provide full legal and medical protection for these innocent babies. Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) voted against this life-saving measure twice, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continuously blocked Republican efforts to have a House floor vote on the bill.

Congress has neglected its duty to ensure that the right to life is secured for all individuals born in America. President Trump has stepped in to fill the void left by Congress’ inaction by issuing this Executive Order, demonstrating this administration’s willingness to do what is necessary to protect the unborn, the disabled, and every infant who has survived the horror of abortion.

Connor Semelsberger, MPP is the Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council.

Ruth Moreno is a Policy and Government Affairs intern focusing on federal legislative affairs, with a concentration on pro-life issues.

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