Right Opinion

At NIH, It's Good Clean Fund

Tony Perkins · Dec. 12, 2018

If we want to stop Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts business, one of the best ways is making sure there’s less of a demand. The fewer research projects there are involving fetal tissue, the smaller the market of buyers will be. The Trump administration seems to understand that. In the last few months, it’s done a better job trying to steer people away from the gruesome experiments — first by ending some of the government contracts that use the tissue, and now by funding the alternatives.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) took a big step in a pro-life direction when it announced that it would be investing as much as $20 million into research for fetal tissue replacements. “Human fetal tissue and embryonic stem cell-derived systems have been used for understanding and modeling human developmental and disease processes,” NIH said in a statement. But, with the all of the ethical questions swirling, officials think there are less controversial ways to make the same progress. “New technologies raise the potential of reconstituting these model systems without fetal tissue.”

The news came on the heels of a month-long “listening session” by HHS with groups like FRC who had raised concerns about using taxpayer dollars for grisly experiments on aborted babies. Although the agency hasn’t cut off the $100 million it spent in these projects last year, decisions like this one hint that a new policy might not be far away.

Let’s hope so. With a pro-life president and responsive secretary like Alex Azar at the helm, there’s no reason Americans should be sending the message that children are worth more to the U.S. government dead than alive. For now, we applaud the administration for doing its part to be pro-science without being anti-baby.

Originally published here.

Dashing through the No: Explaining SCOTUS’s Logic on Life

For a taxpayer-funded organization, Planned Parenthood has gotten away with a lot. So three years ago, when David Daleiden stumbled on the biggest scandal of the year — the group’s baby body parts ring — states thought they finally had the proof they needed to cut those Medicaid contracts. Eleven tried, only for some to end up in courts that couldn’t decide if they had that right. Monday, the Supreme Court had a chance to settle the issue. It passed.

For pro-lifers, the news that the justices weren’t taking the case was a bit of a shock. After all, a majority of Americans don’t think abortion groups should get taxpayer dollars to begin with. Now, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the court, they can’t help but wonder: shouldn’t SCOTUS have at least heard the case? And if Kavanaugh sided with the more liberal members of the court this time, should we be worried about how he’ll vote in the future?

A lot of legal experts, FRC’s included, are trying to cut through the noise of the media and explain what all of this means for the future of the Planned Parenthood funding debate. Based on the social media reaction, some conservatives are so upset that they’re ready to join the Left’s “Impeach Kavanaugh” campaign. Is it concerning that he agreed to let the lower court rulings stand? Potentially. But, as FRC’s Vice President for Policy, Travis Weber, points out, we don’t know the whole story.

What we should be concerned about is that SCOTUS’s non-decision leaves America in limbo on a fundamental question: how much leeway do states have in ending Medicaid contracts? They’ve needed clarity on the issue for years — and unfortunately, the Supreme Court is the only one who can provide it. But it’s important to remember, FRC’s Director of Religious Freedom Advocacy Alexandra McPhee explains, the main question before the Court wasn’t whether states ought to have that freedom, but whether there was a private right to bring a lawsuit in the first place. Pro-lifers had hoped that the justices would have used the case to strike at the heart of the issue — but the court has to be asked to decide that, and they weren’t here.

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas seems as frustrated as the rest of us that the court turned down the chance to speak more directly into both issues. Together with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, he argues that the question “is important and recurring. Around 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and the question presented directly affects their rights,” he writes. “Because of this Court’s inaction, patients in different States — even patients with the same providers — have different rights to challenge their state’s provider decisions.”

One of the most important functions of the court, he explains, is to resolve “important matter[s]” on which the courts of appeals are “in conflict.” “We created this confusion,” Thomas insists. “We should clear it up.” So why didn’t they? Thomas thinks “it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood.’” But that, he goes on, “makes the Court’s decision particularly troubling, as the question presented has nothing to do with abortion… [The cases] are about private rights of action under the Medicaid Act. Resolving the question presented here would not even affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to challenge the states’ decisions.”

Besides, he urges, “Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty. If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background… We are responsible for the confusion among the lower courts, and it is our job to fix it.” Fortunately, there may be another opportunity to do exactly that. As Alexandra reminds us, a preliminary injunction isn’t final. So while the abortion industry may be celebrating, this is by no means a vindication of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding. The justices have plenty of reasons (none of which we may ever know) for denying cert. In Maryland v. Balt. Radio Show, Inc., the Supreme Court offered some possibilities. “A case may raise an important question but the record may be cloudy. It may be desirable to have different aspects of an issue further illumined by the lower courts.” Or maybe the six justices were waiting for a final ruling in the Fourth Circuit before weighing in. Whatever the rationale, the court’s decision not to hear the case has nothing to do with how they would decide it.

As for Justice Kavanaugh, this is one decision in a very young Supreme Court career. He’s reserved judgment here, and until we see more of his work, we should too.

For a more in-depth look at the denial, check out Alexandra and Travis’s new blog post, “Supreme Court Refuses to Rule on Decisions to Defund Planned Parenthood.”

Originally published here.

Trump Gives the Gift of American Aid

Consensus in Congress? Yes, it’s possible. Congressmen Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) have been living proof of that. For years, the two leaders may have found themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum in other areas, but when it comes to the plight of innocent religious minorities, they speak — as most of the House and Senate do — with one voice.

Today, that voice has a new message to the persecuted people of the Middle East: help is on the way. Tuesday afternoon, in the Oval Office, after three long years, I had the opportunity — along with Reps. Smith and Eshoo — to watch the president sign the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act into law, finally sending some much-needed aid to a region ravaged by ISIS. For the tens of thousands of minorities, the message of this bill, Eshoo said, is a powerful one: “We haven’t forgotten you.”

Over in areas like Mosul and Nineveh, the news that America would help villagers rebuild was the greatest Christmas present any of them could have hoped for. For once, there’s hope that these ancient lands can be saved. “It’s important for the Americans to step in,” Archbishop of Erbil Bashar Matti Warda, who was at the bill signing, has said. “With the dollars, with the political influence, all the experience they have had over the last 100 years supporting the genocide cases, they can be of great help.”

The Archbishop, who’s been pleading for the U.S. to get more directly involved, knows that families have been fearful about coming back to the area. But, he told reporters, “Personally, I would love to see Christians stay in Iraq. This is the historic land where we are from. I would love to see our community participating in the rebuilding of Iraq and be a part of efforts. This is one of their rights.”

Thanks to the never-quit attitude and leadership of Chris Smith and an administration committed to religious liberty, the years of loss and fear may finally give way to a fresh start. And in this season of new birth, there may be no better symmetry than that.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.

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