WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The week thus far in the political battles to preserve the lives of the unborn can only be characterized as one step up and two steps back.
Beginning with the forward step, members of the U.S. House of Representatives failed to strip Hyde Amendment provisions from a $190 billion appropriation bill for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. The amendment prevents the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions and has been credited by some research with saving the lives of approximately 2 million unborn children since it was adopted in 1976.
The former vice president and current Democrat contender for the U.S. presidency, Joe Biden, who identifies as Catholic, made headlines previously last week when he announced he was backtracking on his decades-old stance to support the Hyde Amendment. The policy reversal aligns his public views on abortion with his nearly two dozen fellow Democrat presidential candidates.
"I think we don't have the votes that we need," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a co-sponsor of the amendment, according to the Washington Examiner. A Democrat from Washington, Jayapal added: "It's frustrating. I actually think the country is with us."
As noted by Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post:
For more than 40 years, Biden supported the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions. In 1994, when a constituent wrote to Biden, urging him, "Please don't force me to pay for abortions against my conscience," Biden replied, "I agree with you." He pointed out that he had voted no fewer than 50 times against federal funding of abortions, promising, "Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them." In his 2007 book Promises to Keep, Biden wrote, "I've stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years."
Quoted in The Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another Democrat claiming to be a Catholic, said the Hyde Amendment "is the law of the land right now, and I don't see that there's an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and this U.S. Senate."
In a step backward for rights of the unborn, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed into law an abortion law described as "radical" by LifeNews. As signed by Scott, a Republican with distinctly liberal social views, the bill reads, in part: "The General Assembly intends this act to safeguard these existing rights to access reproductive health services in Vermont by ensuring those rights are not denied, restricted, or infringed by a governmental entity."
Repeated efforts by Republican legislators to include restrictions were stymied, and the bill eventually passed by an overwhelming majority.
As noted by Vermont attorney John Klar, the new law would charge a criminal with murder only if a pregnant woman is killed, not if a crime results in the death of her unborn child. However, a doctor who inadvertently causes an abortion through negligence can face criminal charges:
Vermont's bizarre jurisprudence means that a doctor who is alleged to have negligently caused the death of a woman's fetus can be sued for wrongdoing, but a malicious criminal who beats a woman and thereby causes the death of her unborn baby cannot be charged in any way for taking that life.
The "Trump Rule" introduced by the president on the National Day of Prayer last May was implemented to protect medical professionals' religious and moral convictions should they refuse to participate in abortions. The rule, which was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, specifically codified First Amendment religious and civil rights protections contained within the Establishment Clause.
The rule, scheduled to take effect on July 22, prompted Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and several other abortion providers with legal aid from the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the Trump administration. Reuters reports that HHS "pledged to defend the rule vigorously."