By Congressman Paul Ryan
Few issues evoke as much passion in America as the debate over abortion. For those that believe life does not begin at conception, the issue is that of a woman’s right to choose. For those that believe life does begin at conception, the issue is that of a human’s right to life. In Wisconsin and Washington, relatively minor attention has been given to major debates and decisions on the abortion question.
I support the rights of the unborn child. Personally, I believe that life begins at conception, and it is for that reason that I feel we need to protect that life as we would protect other children.
Concerns have been raised with respect to an ongoing debate at a University of Wisconsin health center in Madison. Some UW Health officials are seeking to clear the way for second-trimester abortions to be performed at the Madison Surgery Center. Acknowledging the divisiveness of this issue, many on both sides agree that those morally opposed should not be forced to contribute to what they believe is the ending of a human life For federally-funded health care facilities, federal law protects the conscience rights of physicians and health care professionals.
Along with my colleague Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner from Menomonee Falls, I have written to the UW Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC) expressing my concerns with the impact on pro-life employees should the Madison Surgery Center begin performing second-trimester abortions. Pressure should never be placed on pro-life health care providers to perform what they believe to be morally wrong. The UWHC Authority Board is scheduled to meet this week on the proposed abortion clinic, and many pro-life Wisconsinites will be paying close attention.
In a similar vein, I believe that pro-life taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions. On January 23, 2009, three days after taking the oath of office and one day after the 36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama cleared the way for your tax dollars to fund overseas abortions. In one of his first executive orders, Obama reversed a long-standing policy (the so-called “Mexico City policy") that prohibited U.S. tax dollars from funding abortions overseas.
I believe that U.S. foreign aid should be used to promote and protect life – not finance abortion. In addition to the flagrant disrespect for the rights of the unborn, this decision also offends the deeply held beliefs of millions of pro-life taxpayers. While ensuring that provisions that promote abortions are excluded, I will continue to support efforts to efficiently and effectively allocate resources to help confront the grave public health emergencies that grip many parts of our world.
On the horizon looms a larger legislative battle: the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). FOCA would prohibit any federal efforts that interfere with the decision to abort an unborn child. President Obama stated on the campaign trail that one of his first priorities in the Oval Office would be to sign FOCA into law. With one stroke of the President’s pen, many recent victories in defense of life would be squandered. The ban on partial birth abortion, parental notification laws, and a number of state and local protections would be illegal.
Furthermore, any organization that provides health care benefits or health care information would be required to provide abortions or information on abortion providers. For Catholic hospitals to continue performing obstetrics, they would be forced by the federal government to contradict their own mission statements. If these hospitals fail to comply with the stringent FOCA standards, they could face serious sanctions and even be forced to shut down. To put at risk the viability of religious hospitals will put at risk the health care of many Wisconsinites. The potential damage from this bill is immense, and I am hopeful that Congress and President Obama will keep this bill on the shelf.
I remain committed to restoring the value of human life and fighting for the rights of the unborn. The UWHC decision is currently being debated. American tax dollars can now fund overseas abortions. The prospects for FOCA’s passage remain unclear. In each of these instances, it is important to have a legitimate and respectful debate. Most importantly, we must ensure that the most vulnerable among us – both unborn children and mothers struggling with unplanned pregnancies – are afforded the compassion and opportunities they need to choose life.
Congressman Paul Ryan serves Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. To contact him by phone in Washington, D.C., call (202) 225-3031. Or visit Paul Ryan at www.house.gov/ryan