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From Obama reverses Bush abortion-funds policy:

President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century.

Obama's executive order, the latest in an aggressive first week reversing contentious Bush policies, was warmly welcomed by liberal groups and denounced by abortion rights foes.

The ban has been a political football between Democratic and Republican administrations since GOP President Ronald Reagan first adopted it 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

"For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us," Obama said in a statement released from the White House. "I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate."

He said the ban was unnecessarily broad and undermined family planning in developing countries.

"In the coming weeks, my administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world," the president said.

Sure, it's only a small step. But it is almost certainly not the final step. Unless he has implemented strict controls and segregation of the funds (which nothing in the article leads me to believe has happened), by permitting abortion providers to obtain federal funds, he is necessarily putting federal dollars into companies that provide abortion thereby funding abortions themselves.

I wonder if President Obama's "working to find common ground" in this area will be like his response to Republicans who are concerned about the economic stimulus plan (including the fact that the economic stimulus plan contains "'hundreds of millions of dollars' for contraceptives"):

During his private meeting with congressional Democrats and Republicans on Friday, President Obama ended a philosophical debate over tax policy with the simple declaration that his opinion prevailed because "I won."

Yup, nothing like working to find common ground.

22 comments:

Yeah, this frustrated me. If he had at least waited a few weeks, it would still bother me, but at least it would show some restraint. But I mean, c'mon ... within your first week that's what you do? I'm pretty sure that's one of the worst ways possible to extend a hand of fellowship to the conservatives, or to even make them feel potentially comfortable with you.

What frustrates me most about this is that those federal funds come straight from my tax dollars, and I have severe moral problems with my taxes helping to support something that I consider to be murder. Even if people totally disagree that it is murder, I think they could at least see how bothering it is to have public funds used for it.

Yes, you and I are in agreement.

Aid agencies in Africa have found that since Bush suspended funding to anyone who even mentions abortion the resulting loss of health care services and contraception has led to an increase in unintended pregnancies, infant mortality, maternal mortality and, yes, abortion.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/15/opinion/edgag.php

If you're serious about wanting to reduce the rate of abortion the restoration of this funding should be good news...

Interesting article, A Hermit. However, it doesn't say quite what you represent.

Besides, if these organizations are truly interested in accepting U.S. money for their services of providing "health care services and contraception has led to an increase in unintended pregnancies, infant mortality, [and] maternal mortality," all they have to do is swear off performing abortions. They don't do so (probably) because they see abortions as a good alternative. The U.S. largely does not.

Also, I find the 70,000 deaths to mothers from unsafe abortions figure to be somewhat suspect. But I guess it would all be incredibly easy to avoid if these agencies would simply stop providing abortions and accept the money so they can do the good counseling so needed, eh?

You're missing the point; many of those organizations DON'T provide abortions. They had their funding cut simply for mentioning abortion as an option, or referring women to other agencies which provide safe abortions.

And if those agencies which actually provide abortions don't provide safe abortions women will find other ways; like coat hangers or douching with bleach...and many of them will die or become infertile as a result. Those 70,000 deaths aren't happening in the clinics, they are the result of the loss of those clinics and a return to the back alley butchers.

But I guess if you consider abortion to be murder perhaps death or disfigurement sounds like a just punishment for those women?

First, you are missing the point. The point is that if you are wanting the funds, you cannot counsel women that abortion is an option. It isn't a passing reference, it is the advocation of that as a viable alternative.

Second, why don't you let me say what I believe rather than put words in my mouth. No, I don't believe it is a "just punishment." However, I don't believe that you back away from legislating what is right merely because some people will break the law to do it anyway. Am I saddened that 70,000 women (a number I find suspect) die every year from illegal abortions? Of course. Do I suspect that the ban has helped prevent the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions of babies? Yes, I do.

As I said, all they have to do is start counseling women on appropriate birth control that doesn't include abortion then they could get the money. By the reasoning that it is only the non-funding of these agencies that is causing these deaths, even these suspect numbers would drop significantly.

Those 70,000 deaths aren't happening in the clinics....

How many deaths are happening in the clinics?

"First, you are missing the point. The point is that if you are wanting the funds, you cannot counsel women that abortion is an option. It isn't a passing reference, it is the advocation of that as a viable alternative."

We used to call that "free speech." It is a viable alternative for most people.

"Second, why don't you let me say what I believe rather than put words in my mouth. No, I don't believe it is a "just punishment."

Just out of curiosity, what would you consider a just punishment for women who have abortions? If it's equivalent to murder shouldn't there be at least some jail time involved?

"However, I don't believe that you back away from legislating what is right merely because some people will break the law to do it anyway. Am I saddened that 70,000 women (a number I find suspect) die every year from illegal abortions? Of course. Do I suspect that the ban has helped prevent the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions of babies? Yes, I do."

You're the one missing the point here; because of the funding ban millions of women no longer have access to contraception; meaning millions more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

The ban has caused an increase in the number of abortions being performed. Is that what you want to see?

"As I said, all they have to do is start counseling women on appropriate birth control that doesn't include abortion then they could get the money."

And those women who want abortions will still go and get them, only they'll get them from the back alley butchers with their coat hangers.

Remember, not everyone shares your religious belief in the sinfulness of abortion (including a majority in the United States.) Why should your particular belief be the standard and all others be silenced?

No, it isn't a question of free speech. People try to cast it that way, but doctors have always been restricted from discussing certain treatments. For example, if a doctor lived in a state that didn't allow marijuana sales for ill people thus making marijuana use illegal, he couldn't counsel the patient to use marijuana in the name of free speech.

Just punishment for abortion? That's much too long of a topic to address here.

You're the one missing the point here; because of the funding ban millions of women no longer have access to contraception; meaning millions more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

No, that's not the point. Its the insistence of these agencies to refuse the money so that they can counsel abortion that is causing the problem.

The ban has caused an increase in the number of abortions being performed. Is that what you want to see?

That is not what the article says. Read it closely.

And those women who want abortions will still go and get them, only they'll get them from the back alley butchers with their coat hangers.

As I said previiously, I don't believe that you back away from legislating what is right merely because some people will break the law to do it anyway.

Remember, not everyone shares your religious belief in the sinfulness of abortion (including a majority in the United States.) Why should your particular belief be the standard and all others be silenced?

My position is based on the scientifically supportable position that a "fetus" aka baby is a living human being from the moment of conception. My belief that all human beings are important is based on religion, but it seems to be a widespread assumption even among atheists that every human life is worthy of protection. Our disagreement is based on the inability of some to see the "fetus" as a living human being -- an inability that is fostered by people who want to deny the obvious for profit.

That there is no distinction between saying "there is a clinic that can perform an abortion if you choose to do that" and "we can help you have an abortion at one of our centers," among the groups that receive U.S. funding, shows that the argument here has gone beyond reason. There are, in fact, going to be places where women can have an abortion performed, and there are going to be women who take that route. To deny them information, or to seek to undermine organizations that provide that information by pulling the plug on their funding, is fundamentally opposed to the concept of freedom of conscience. A public organization has an obligation to be truthful and complete in the information it provides to those whom it serves. That funding was being cut for this reason, being truthful and complete in counsel, isn't a sign that the policy is in any an enlightened one.

Peter,

Can you cite me to a source that shows that both of the statements you make were banned by the former funding order? I don't believe that funding would be withdrawn or not granted to a clinic which said, "there is a clinic that can perform an abortion if you choose to do that." Thus, I think your entire argument is based on an untrue premise.

Peter,

Following up, if there are going to be places where women can have abortions performed regardless of the U.S. funding then there is no reason for laying the deaths of 70,000 women (although I find that number suspect) at the feet of the U.S. funding order as A Hermit is trying to do right?

Third, it is not denying them the information. They can simply choose to go to the other clinic. And it is not denying them freedom of consciience. It is a simple decision not to fund a practice that many find abhorrent. Consider this scenario: it becomes the rage in other countries to allow women who find it psychologically stressful to care for their children to take them to a local child-killing facility where children up to five can be killed. Is it wrong for the U.S. government to say that we won't send money to an organization that provides these services?

To withhold funding for services that are objectionable isn't a freedom of conscience thing -- its a "what should we, as a civilized country, allow our tax dollars to support" kind of thing. So, with all due respect, it is the argument that you are making that I find to be extremely unenlightened.

BK said...

" Peter,

Can you cite me to a source that shows that both of the statements you make were banned by the former funding order? I don't believe that funding would be withdrawn or not granted to a clinic which said, "there is a clinic that can perform an abortion if you choose to do that." Thus, I think your entire argument is based on an untrue premise."


That in fact is exactly the effect of the "gag rule:

http://www.plusnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=36285

One of the unintended effects of the policy was the self-censorship among NGOs that had accepted the gag rule. "For example, Youth Media (a USAID-funded NGO) eliminated a chapter on emergency contraception from a brochure they produced on contraception options. Fear of losing US funds had also prevented Trendsetters, Zambia's only youth newspaper, from writing articles addressing readers' interest in abortion-related topics," the report said.

"This is a larger chilling effect and it is an unfortunate consequence," Turnbull said.

----------------

http://www.pathfind.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Advocacy_Resources_Fact_Sheets_Gag_Rule

What the Global Gag Rule Does

Family planning advocates have made concerted efforts to overturn the global gag rule on the basis that it:

* Forces foreign organizations to choose between the laws of their own country and U.S. policy in order to obtain critical U.S. funding;
* Undermines U.S. efforts to strengthen democratic systems and freedom of speech overseas;
* Has a “chilling effect” on the delivery of other health services when NGOs, fearful of losing their U.S. funding, over-implement the rule, eliminating life-saving care such as treating women suffering complications from unsafe or botched abortions;
* May actually increase abortion rates by denying contraceptive supplies and services to organizations that refuse to abide by the gag rule;
* Infringes upon the sovereignty of other donor nations; and
* Lacks any evidence that the policy, in all the years it has been in effect, has reduced the incidence of abortion anywhere in the world...

...Over-Implementation or the “Chilling Effect”

Because of its far-reaching restrictions, the gag rule carries the threat of being over-implemented by foreign organizations that are fearful of losing crucial funding. Approximately 70,000 women die around the world each year due to complications from unsafe abortions. But while the global gag rule does permit treatment for post abortion complications, some clinics are afraid to keep the equipment necessary for this care because they believe that others could misconstrue its intended use.


-------------------------

BK continues:
"To withhold funding for services that are objectionable isn't a freedom of conscience thing -- its a "what should we, as a civilized country, allow our tax dollars to support" kind of thing. So, with all due respect, it is the argument that you are making that I find to be extremely unenlightened."

What's unenlightened here is the belief that witholding assistance on the basis of your ideology is helping anyone. It isn't. And since the majority of Americans in polls regularly express their support for women's right to control what happens inside their own bodies it is you who are in opposition to what Americans think their tax dollars should support.

The restoration of funding for women's health care and family planning will save lives and ultimately reduce the number of abortions (unsafe and otherwise) being performed worldwide. If you're serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of abortions being performed then you should be in favour of this; education, contraception and the availability of effective maternal and pediatric care will do more to minimize the number of women seeking abortions than bullying tactics like the gag rule.

A Hermit,

First, thank you for finally giving me a link that attempts to support what you have been saying. Looking at the articles, the first, from PlusNews, sites only two sources for its information: Planned Parenthood -- the organization most dedicated to promoting abortion on demand, and the Global Gag Rule Project, a project spearheaded by Population Action International in concert with its partner, Planned Parenthood. 'Nuff said.

The second article is generated by pathfinder, another abortion provider which was seeking to be able to accept government money to fund its abortion projects (it "continued to provide safe abortion care with its privately raised funds" even with the "Global Gag Rule" as they call it). Not particularly convinced that these are good resources.

(BTW, are you acknowledging that the threat of government withdrawal of funds is enough to make people shy away from exercising rights? You should let the ACLU know about that when they next bring a silly Establishment Clause case against a local school.)

Your final two paragraphs conveniently ignore what I said before in respnose to your earlier post, so let me say it again while adding a new opening sentence to make the connection clear: My position is not based on mere ideology. My position is based on the scientifically supportable position that a "fetus" aka baby is a living human being from the moment of conception. My belief that all human beings are important is based on religion, but it seems to be a widespread assumption even among atheists that every human life is worthy of protection. Our disagreement is based on the inability of some to see the "fetus" as a living human being -- an inability that is fostered by people who want to deny the obvious for profit.

Now, with respect to the polling -- yes, more Americans claim to be somewhat pro-choice (by margins mostly within the margin of error), but those that believe that they should always be legal are in the distinct minority. Moreover, I know of no poll where a majority of Americans approve of the government funding abortions. Do you have one?

[E]ducation, contraception and the availability of effective maternal and pediatric care will do more to minimize the number of women seeking abortions....

Then lets do that! There is absolutely no reason that doctors, hospitals and health care clinics companies cannot provide these things without advocating or providing abortion.

Yes, BK, I'm relying on sources who actually provide services in the third world and are actually impacted by this policy. They certainly are biased, in that they are witnessing the actual effects of the policy.

You're flippant dismissal of their expertise is more evidence of the ideological basis of your position; inconvenient facts are ignored because you dislike the source...not because you actually have any contrary data yourself (hint, there isn;'t any...I've looked...)

"Our disagreement is based on the inability of some to see the "fetus" as a living human being -- an inability that is fostered by people who want to deny the obvious for profit."

You're grossly oversimplifying the issue, I'm afraid. We disagree on the status that should be accorded to a pre-sentient collection of human cells, and what rights any human entity (sentient or otherwise) has over the body of another sentient human being. (My own position on this, by the way, is not simply abortion on demand at any stage of development...in fact, that is, in my experience, an extremely rare position.)

Also, the idea that the agencies in question favour abortion rights for profit is laughable; these are non-profit NGO's we're talking about here; their motivation is to provide health care, and they recognize that for some women in some circumstances that sometimes includes the choice to terminate a pregnancy. All you're doing here is poisoning the conversation with a piece of unsupportable slander. Like me all of these agencies would actually like to see a decrease in the number of abortions performed world wide; that's why family planning services, women's health care and contraception are so important, and why the restoration of those services is such good news.

If we're going to have this conversation you're going to have to try a little harder to acknowledge the complexities of the issue instead of taking this simpleminded "either/or" "Good vs Evil" approach.

I wonder, do you think there is any circumstance in which abortion should be an option? If a woman's health or life is threatened by her pregnancy should she be told "too bad, you'll just have to suffer and/or die?"

And I'd really like an answer to my earlier question; if abortion is, as you seem to believe, equivalent to murder what should be the punishment for women who have abortions? I've noticed anti-abortion advocates never seem to have a clear answer to that question...

Okay, this is the last of my comments on this line. I don't believe anyone else is still reading this, and I don't think we are going to change each other's minds. So, unless you say something that I think really needs a response, I will make these comments and leave you the last word.

First, I find your attempt to goad me into accepting the reports of an obviously interested party (Planned Parenthood) unconvincing. Let me tell you what I read you saying by rephrasing our conversation using an analogous situation:

Me: Obama is allowing the cat into the canary cage.
You: But allowing the cat into the canary cage will actually save more canaries.
Me: That's pretty counter-intuitive. What source do you have to support that?
You: I have these reports.
Me: But tese reports are all written by the cat.
You: There are no neutral reports (I know, I've looked) so its the best we've got. Besides, the cat is the one most interested in what happens to the canaries -- look, he's been watching them all day.

In courts, these reports would be considered as evidence, but because of the obvious financial and ideological bias of the abortion-providers, most judges and/or jury members would obviously give them little or no weight. (And yes, Planned Parenthood makes a ton of money on abortion in addition to having an ideological axe to grind.) Given how Planned Parenthood and NARAL have proven to me over time that they are not reliable sources of information (if Planned Parenthood told me that the sun rose this morning, I would want to look out the window to double-check them -- that's how little credibility they have with me), I view these reports to be non-evidence.

You can disagree, but I sincerely believe that if I were to tell you what great works missionaries were doing in bringing people to Christ with the only support being the reports of these same missionaries, you would scoff. I expect that you wouldn't accept these reports as good evidence under any other circumstance.

You call my views simplistic. I call your views out-of-touch with reality. Like all abortion rights advocates, you are trying to dehumanize what is being aborted (what you call a " pre-sentient collection of human cells" is what is obviously a human being) to talk about the pain of women. I would love to reduce the pain of women, but until we agree what an abortion really is (the killing of an innocent human being) then the conversations will remain meaningless.

And yes, there is a right and a wrong. Being able to see grey in refuing to recognize a human being as a human being would have made you a good soldier for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

I repeat what I have said before: There is absolutely no reason that doctors, hospitals and health care clinics companies cannot provide these things without advocating or providing abortion. The fact that they can't seem to do this simply shows how much these organizations are wedded to abortion.

Finally, I am not going to answer the question about the punishment of women if it were to be made illegal in these comments. The reason is because it has to be put in context otherwise you (or someone else) will try to make it sound as if I am either inconsistent or cruel (depending on how I answer). I may write a separate blog entry on that, but not here in the comments which are supposed to be short. If you don't like that, I'm sorry, but that's the best answer I am giving to you.

And as I said above, that's it. I have no desire to be dragged into an endless argument with you if neither of us are going to change our minds. So, be civil (as I expect you will be) and I will allow you the last word.

"In courts, these reports would be considered as evidence, but because of the obvious financial and ideological bias of the abortion-providers, most judges and/or jury members would obviously give them little or no weight. (And yes, Planned Parenthood makes a ton of money on abortion in addition to having an ideological axe to grind.)

PP, like Marie Stopes and the UNFPA which are also cited in the material I posted, are all non-profit organizations. In a court of law I imagine they would be more likely to have the status of expert witnesses, since they are the ones actually involved in delivering those health services.

I read the article you linked; it's full of innuendo, half truths, unsupported assertions and hand waving. You still haven't offered a scrap of actual evidence to contradict that which I have provided.

"You can disagree, but I sincerely believe that if I were to tell you what great works missionaries were doing in bringing people to Christ with the only support being the reports of these same missionaries, you would scoff. I expect that you wouldn't accept these reports as good evidence under any other circumstance."

I don't particularly care about "bringing people to Christ" but I do know many missionary organizations do great work, including the one my Uncle worked for in Asia as a medical missionary for many years (and to which I still occasionally contribute), so actually you'd be wrong about me on this point, too...;-)

"You call my views simplistic. I call your views out-of-touch with reality. Like all abortion rights advocates, you are trying to dehumanize what is being aborted (what you call a " pre-sentient collection of human cells" is what is obviously a human being) to talk about the pain of women."

Well, this is precisely where the grey area is; when does human tissue become a human being with sentience, feelings, thoughts, a "soul" and the attendant rights? Why at the moment of conception? Is a sperm a human being? Why not an unfertilized egg? Were all those early term miscarriages my wife flushed unknowingly before her condition was diagnosed "human beings?" Should we have named them, held funerals?

You'd like this to be simple; but I can tell you from experience it isn't.

"Finally, I am not going to answer the question about the punishment of women if it were to be made illegal in these comments. The reason is because it has to be put in context otherwise you (or someone else) will try to make it sound as if I am either inconsistent or cruel (depending on how I answer)."

If it's as simple as you say it is I don't see what the problem is, but OK

I'm actually more interested in your answer to the other question I asked. If a woman's long term health, life or fertility is at risk from a pregnancy should abortion be an option? Or should that woman have to accept disability, infertility (and what about all those children she'll never have?!) or death?

This is especially pertinent in this discussion, because in many, if not most, of the countries affected by Bush's gag rule those are only circumstances in which abortion is permitted.

"So, be civil (as I expect you will be) and I will allow you the last word."

I'm always civil; I would never compare someone to a Confederate soldier as a way of questioning their morals or attacking their opinion, for example. It would bee nice if you'd extend me the same courtesy...;-)

And while I agree with little of what you said, as promised, you have the last word.

"And while I agree with little of what you said, as promised, you have the last word."

Too bad, I really would have liked to hear your answer to the question of abortion in cases of real threat to a woman's long term health or life and why an embryo (or, if I read you right a single fertilized egg cell) should have more rights than the woman whose health or life is at risk.

Like I said, this is a crucial question, given that most of the countries affected by the gag rule only allow abortions in those circumstances...

There, now I really have had the last word...;-)

Some other time.

"Some other time."

What's wrong with now? You're running away from the central point of the issue here...

And are you giving me the last word or not? ... ;-)

I explained my reasons above. Besides, if you really want the answers, you can ask again under the new post I just started.

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