By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Published: August 18
The politics of the abortion debate are always tricky for lawmakers. They may soon get personal.
An attempt to fix a problem with the national health-care law has created a situation in which members of Congress and their staffers could gain access to abortion coverage. That’s a benefit currently denied to them and to all federal employees who receive health insurance through the government’s plan.
Abortion opponents say the Obama administration needs to fix the congressional exception; abortion rights supporters say such concerns are overblown.
The abortion complication is another headache for the administration as it tries to shoehorn members of Congress and certain staffers into insurance markets coming later this year under President Obama’s health-care overhaul.
An amendment by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley — who opposes “Obamacare” and abortion — requires lawmakers and their personal staff to get private coverage through the same markets that uninsured Americans will use.
Last week, the Office of Personnel Management said the government would keep paying its share of premiums for lawmakers and affected staffers who must leave the federal-employee health-care system by Jan. 1. That eased a major anxiety for several thousand staffers accustomed to getting the same benefits as other federal employees.
But the proposed regulation did not explicitly address abortion coverage. Under the health-care law, insurance plans in the new markets may cover abortion unless a state passes a law prohibiting them from doing so. Plans offering coverage of abortion, however, may not use federal funds to pay for it. Federal tax credits to help the uninsured afford coverage must be kept apart from premiums collected for abortion coverage.
Abortion opponents say the regulation would circumvent a long-standing law that bars the use of taxpayer funds for “administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Unlike many private corporate plans, federal-employee plans cover abortion only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
“Under this scheme, (the government) will be paying the administrative costs,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), author of the abortion-funding ban for federal-employee plans. “It’s a radical deviation and departure from current federal law, and it’s not for all federal employees but for a subset: Congress. Us.”
Smith is calling on the Obama administration to specify that lawmakers and staffers must choose a plan that does not cover abortions. The funding ban, in place since the 1980s, is known as the Smith amendment.
The personnel office refused to address the issue on the record. Instead, its media office released a generic statement, saying: “Federal law prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is endangered. All plans available in the marketplaces will comply with the law.”
Obama, who supports abortion rights, has said previously that he does not want his health-care overhaul to change existing laws on abortion.
An independent expert on the federal-employee plan said abortion opponents appear to have a legitimate question, but the applicable laws are so arcane that it’s hard to tell who is right.
“This goes into a legal thicket the complexity of which I can’t begin to fathom,” said Walton Francis, lead author of an annual guide to federal health benefits. “It would take lawyers hours to decipher the interrelationship between these statutes, and they would probably come to different conclusions.”
Abortion opponents say the long-standing ban on “administrative expenses” related to abortion coverage precludes the personnel office from dealing with health plans that cover abortion.
“To comply with the Smith amendment, they would have to advise members and congressional staff that they can only choose plans that do not cover abortions,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. “And, of course, they would have to enforce it.”
Abortion remains a legal procedure in most cases, but it’s subject to increasing restrictions in conservative-leaning states. So far, 23 states have barred or restricted abortion coverage by plans in the new health insurance markets. But 27 states and the District have not. Under the health-care law, every state must have at least one plan that does not cover abortion.
Judy Waxman, a leading attorney for the National Women’s Law Center, said the outcry from abortion opponents is overblown.
In the new insurance markets created by Obama’s law, states decide whether abortion coverage can be offered, she explained. If it’s allowed, insurers decide whether they want to offer the coverage. They may not use federal funds to pay for it and must set aside part of the premium collected from enrollees in a separate account to cover abortions.
“No federal money will go to abortion,” she said.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – The District of Columbia’s Obamacare-mandated health insurance exchange has awarded Planned Parenthood a $375,000 grant aimed at helping the abortion giant steer its clients toward the program.
The abortion provider was one of 35 exchange-endorsed “Health Link Assisters” selected by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority to receive a combined $6.4 million in grants, which will pay for in-house “experts” on Obamacare to promote the health insurance exchanges to their clients.
Planned Parenthood will receive $375,000 to promote President Obama's signature legislation.
Studies estimate that there are only about 40,000 uninsured people living in the District, which falls short of the 100,000 required to make the exchange viable. For the exchange to work as intended, D.C. will have to be aggressive about recruitment. Exchange officials say groups like Planned Parenthood will be instrumental in spreading the word.
“DC Health Link Assisters are a critical part of our enrollment efforts,” said Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority. “These organizations are trusted voices and sources of information in their communities and they will be our boots on the ground.”
Authority Chairwoman Diane C. Lewis said, “We are excited to create these partnerships with trusted organizations that have deep roots in the communities that make up the District of Columbia. The new health law offers essential benefits that will improve the health and security of the residents of our city. It is critically important that we have trained experts available to help ensure those benefits reach the people who need them.”
The grants range in size from $80,000 to $400,000. Planned Parenthood’s was one of the largest -- only two grant recipients received more funding than the abortion giant.
President Obama had asked Planned Parenthood to promote his health care law during an appearanceat the organization’s gala in April.
"I'm here to ... ask for your help, because we need to get the word out," he told Planned Parenthood supporters gathered in Washington. "We need you to tell your patients, your friends, your neighbors, your family members what the health care law means for them."
"Make sure that they know that there are plans out there right now that cover the cost of contraception and preventative care free of charge," he said. "We've got to spread the word, particularly among women, particularly among young women, who are the ones who are most likely to benefit from these laws."
Aug. 13, 2013 (MarchforLife) - One year ago on August 13, 2012, Nellie Gray, foundress of the March for Life and pioneer of the pro-life movement, went home to be with God. On this, the first anniversary of her death, the March for Life is inviting local pro-lifers to join us for a mass in her memory at the Blessed John Paul II Shrine August 13, 2013, at 11:30 am.
Additionally, we are asking all pro-lifers worldwide- those who have (and have not) participated in the March for Life - to do something beautiful for life (something small!) and post it on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #marchforlife. This act could be a prayer, an act of charity, a donation to a pro-life group, praying in front of an abortion clinic, etc.
For those who may not have known Nellie Gray, following the Supreme Court decisions in Roe verses Wade and Doe verses Bolton in 1973, she retired from her federal career and dedicated the remainder of her life to the protection of pre-born babies. With the help of others, Nellie founded the March for Life, and coordinated the peaceful protest right out of her Capitol Hill townhouse for the next 39 years. Until her death on August 13, 2012, Nellie never stopped advocating for the preborn. Nellie was described by Cardinal Sean O'Malley as the "Joan of Arc of the pro-life Movement."
Today, the March for Life is the largest Civil Rights event in the world. The number of people who have traveled to Washington over the past 40 years to participate is in the millions. There have been countless stories of the young prolife activists who were "born" out of the March for Life, and are now changing the face of the pro-life debate. The March for Life is the engine of the prolife movement and we are all indebted to Nellie Gray.
If Nellie were here today, she would not want to be praised for her work; rather she would want everyone to do something concrete that will help to build a culture of life. Please consider making August 13 a special day for building a culture of life, and commemorate Nellie's work by doing something in her memory.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Pray: Organize a group to pray for the end to abortion in front of a local abortion clinic.
2. Advocate: call or write a letter to your member of Congress and ask him or her to support prolife laws which recognize the humanity of all people from conception to death.
3. Write: a letter to the editor of your local news paper about the value of life, your experience at the March for Life, or the atrocity of abortion.
4. Volunteer: at a local pregnancy resource center, there is nothing more prolife than helping pregnant mothers and their babies.
5. Share this video about Nellie and her work at the March for Life!
Then, post it to facebook and tweet about it: #marchforlife. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org , and let us know what you did to commemorate Nellie Gray and her heroic work, and we may feature it on our website or on our social media!
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 8/12/13 11:08 AM
The dangerous RU 486 abortion drug has nearly claimed the lives of two million unborn children in the United States since its approval at the end of the Clinton administration.
The Food and Drug Administration, which approved the drug in late 1999, estimated in April 2011 that 1.52 million American women had taken RU-486 to induce an abortion. According to CDC reports, about 16.5 percent of the estimated 1.2 million abortions that take place annually in the United States involve the mifepristone drug, commonly known as RU 486.
In other words, about 198,000 abortions take place each year with the drug, or 16,500 each month, and the RU 486 drug has claimed the lives of approximately 462,000 unborn children in the 28 months since the FDA released its April 2011 estimate — for a total of 1,982,000 abortions. With the Planned Parenthood abortion business pushing increased usage of the mifepristone abortion pill via webcam abortions over the last few years, it’s likely the number of two million abortions involving the RU 486 abortion pill since its approval in the U.S. has already been surpassed.
In addition to the number of unborn children whose lives have been lost to the abortion drug, women have suffered as well, as a Planned Parenthood study admitsat least one woman is seriously injured from the abortion pill daily.
Following its approval during the Clinton administration, the FDA released a report in 2006 that received widespread attention for showing more than 1,100 women had been subjected to “adverse effects” resulting from their taking the abortion drug.
The FDA, with no fanfare, released its April 2011 report showing 14 women in the United States alone have died from using the mifepristone abortion drug and 2,207 women have been injured by it.
Of the women experiencing medical and physical problems resulting from the abortion drug, 612 women required hospitalizations, 339 experienced blood loss significant enough to require a transfusion, 256 experienced infections and 48 women experienced what the FDA labeled as “severe infections.” Given that the RU 486 abortion drug caused sepsis, a potentially lethal infection that resulted in the deaths of women from around the world, the “serious infections” were very likely life-threatening situations.
“Severe infections generally involve death or hospitalization for at least 2-3 days, intravenous antibiotics for at least 24 hours, total antibiotic usage for at least 3 days, and any other physical or clinical findings, laboratory data or surgery that suggest a severe infection,” the FDA report stated.
Women developing infections from usage of the RU 486 abortion drug experienced endometritis (involving the lining of the womb), pelvic inflammatory disease (involving the nearby reproductive organs such as the fallopian tubes or ovaries), and pelvic infections with sepsis (a serious systemic infection that has spread beyond the reproductive organs).
The FDA figures also reveal that abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood are still misusing the abortion drug.
Despite the FDA indicating, “Administration of mifepristone and misoprostol is contraindicated in patients with confirmed or suspected ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus,” the abortion drug was given to women in 58 cases where they had an ectopic pregnancy at that time.
An FDA panel eventually investigated the deaths and found that the vaginal, rather than oral, use of the abortion drug was likely contributing to the deaths. Planned Parenthood had been going against the FDA guidelines on using the abortion drug and changed its protocols to allow for oral use after women died at their facilities.
In 2012, Chris Gacek, who received a Bachelors of Science in economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, a Masters and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, authored a comprehensive report on mifepristone.
On the unsafe effects of RU 486 for women:
Dr. Ralph Miech, emeritus professor at Brown University’s medical school, has published two peer-reviewed articles describing potentially undesirable effects related to RU-486 and its anti-glucocorticoid properties. First, he believes that RU-486′s blockade of cortisol receptors on bacteria-destroying white blood cells may impede the antibacterial defense mechanism of the innate immune system. Such interference, he hypothesizes, played a significant role in the deaths of at least five North Americans in which there was a post abortion, bacterial invasion of the uterus and subsequent septic shock. Second, prompted by an article describing mifepristone-related adverse events with significant and unexpected levels of hemorrhage, Miech’s second article argues that RU-486 appears to interfere with the body’s ability to control uterine hemorrhage. Such interference, if true, would be a dangerous feature of an abortion procedure that is designed to produce a simulated miscarriage. As will be noted below, the number of hemorrhage/transfusion and serious infection cases revealed by FDA support Miech’s concern about RU-486 and hemorrhage.
Looking at specific cases of the abortion drug hurting women:
FDA’s April 2011 RU-486 Adverse Events Summary states that “[t]he estimated number of women who have used mifepristone in the US through the end of April 2011 is approximately 1.52 million women.” As noted above, FDA calculated that by that date there had been 2,207 adverse event reports submitted to FDA. Prior to a 2006 oversight hearing on RU-486 safety, FDA told Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) that it had received 1,070 AERs. Thus, in the second five years of mifepristone marketing in the United States, the FDA received an additional 1,137 AERs-a total which seems consistent with the first five years.
The April 2011 RU-486 Adverse Events Summary states that there were 612 reports of hospitalization received as of April 30, 2011.
FDA’s April 2011 RU-486 Adverse Events Summary indicates that 339 women “experienced blood loss requiring a transfusion” after taking the RU-486 abortion regimen.
By April 2011 FDA had fifty-eight reports of ectopic pregnancy cases – with two resulting in death – in conjunction with mifepristone-misoprostol use.
In the April 2011 RU-486 Adverse Events Summary FDA associated fourteen American deaths to the use of the mifepristone-misoprostol abortion regimen.
And, according to a study on medical abortion’s safety and effectiveness published in Obstetrics & Gynecology and that Gacek noted, the abortion drug is more dangerous for women than surgical abortions:
“Overall, medical abortion had roughly four times the rate of adverse events than surgical abortion did: 20.0% of women in the medical-abortion group and 5.6% of women in the surgical-abortion group had at least one type of adverse event. Hemorrhage, as an adverse event, was experienced by 15.6% of medical abortion patients compared with 2.1% for surgical patients. Incomplete abortions were experienced by 6.7% of medical abortion patients while only 1.6% of surgical patients had incomplete abortions. The rate for surgical (re)evacuation of the uterus was 5.9% (medical) versus 1.8% (surgical) for all causes (hemorrhage, infection, incomplete abortion).
Jeanne Monahan, formerly of the Family Research Council, previously said the danger associated with the RU 486 abortion drug are abortion drug is not limited to the United States.
“It is not only women in the U.S. who are suffering as a result of chemical abortion, it is a worldwide trend. A recent Australian health department audit of nearly 10,000 abortions performed in 2009 and 2010 compared the safety of RU-486 with surgical abortion, with the outcome being in the words of one major media outlet “The Abortion Pill ‘Less Safe than Surgery,’” Monahan explained. “The Australian report showed that 1 in 18 patients who used RU-486 had to be re-admitted to hospitals (a total of 5.7% of women vs. only .4% of surgical abortions.) The same study revealed that as many as 33% of women who had second trimester RU-486 abortions required some form of surgical intervention.”
“Despite the seriousness and intensity of adverse effects related to RU-486, use of this form of abortion is on the rise, and frequently the regimen is dispensed with less medical oversight than surgical abortion,” Monahan said. “Even more troubling, nationally and internationally, “telemed” dissemination of RU-486 is increasing. Telemed abortions involved doctors proscribing RU-486 through Skype or over the Internet rather than during a patient visit.”
“The bottom line is that abortion drugs are not about improving women’s health but are more accurately about advancing a radical pro-abortion agenda regardless of the impact on women’s health, even when it proves deadly,” she concluded.
Danco Laboratories has been granted an exclusive license from the Population Council, a pro-abortion group, to manufacture, market and distribute Mifeprex in the United States.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 8/7/13 11:40 AM
Americans United for Life today filed its 15th amicus curiae brief in a legal challenge to Obamacare’s HHS mandate, in defense of freedom of conscience.
The mandate went into effect last year on August 1 and the very minimal religious protections were set to go into effect August 1, but they will be implemented and enforcement will take place starting on January 1.
In its brief filed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, AUL argues that the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate—which forces many employers to provide insurance coverage for life-ending drugs and devices without regard to the employers’ consciences or religious beliefs—violates the First Amendment freedom of conscience.
“Defending the conscience rights of all Americans is the liberty issue of our day, and a priority for the legal team of Americans United for Life,” said AUL President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest.
“Americans who own and operate businesses have the same First Amendment right of conscience as Americans who work for churches,” said Dr. Yoest. “The First Amendment was written to protect our rights and must not be discarded to suit the political whims of this administration.”
AUL’s brief was filed in Armstrong v. Sebelius, a case filed by two families who own, manage, and operate Cherry Creek Mortgage Co., Inc. The Armstrongs and the Mays do not want to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs that abortion is immoral by providing insurance coverage for life-ending drugs and devices.
Previously, a federal district court denied the families’ request for a preliminary injunction, which would have barred enforcement of the HHS Mandate against them and their business. The Armstrongs and the Mays appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
AUL’s brief, available here, demonstrates that the life of a new human being begins at fertilization (conception), that “emergency contraception” has a post-fertilization effect of preventing a new human embryo from implanting in the uterus. Forcing employers to provide coverage for such drugs and devices violates their constitutionally protected freedom of conscience.
The brief was filed on behalf of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Catholic Bioethics Center, Physicians for Life, and National Association of Pro Life Nurses.
Last month, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevents the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, which does not want to be compelled to pay for birth control or drugs that may cause abortions.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby. “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby, but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
Duncan says there are now 63 separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The Becket Fund led the charge against the unconstitutional HHS mandate. The Becket Fund currently represents: Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, Colorado Christian University, the Eternal Word Television Network, Ave Maria University, and Belmont Abbey College.
The most recent polling data from December 2012 shows Americans support a religious exemption to the mandate.
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 8/6/13 10:26 AM
The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO), a Congressional agency, has indicated it will conduct an investigation of the Planned Parenthood abortion, business, which was recently busted for millions of dollars of Medicaid fraud in Texas.
The abortion giant has engaged in at least $12.5 million in fraud over multiple states — that has become public knowledge so far.
Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Pete Olson (R-TX), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) issued states late Monday saying they are grateful the agency will look into the abortion corporation and its financial dealings.
“The federal government providing funding to abortion providers is a serious problem in our nation,” Rep. Black said.
She added: “I am pleased with the decision from GAO to investigate the use of taxpayer money designated to any abortion provider, particularly Planned Parenthood. This independent study of how much and for what purpose these dollars are allocated to all abortion providers is necessary for Congress to ensure accountability and oversight. I look forward to reviewing the results and ultimately, mobilizing the support needed to stop federal funding of abortion providers once and for all.”
Senator David Vitter added: “Planned Parenthood performed a record 333,964 abortions last year – almost 1 million in the past three years. At the same time, they also received more federal taxpayer dollars than ever before – a record $542 million, an 11 percent increase over the past two years. Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions clearly benefit from Uncle Sam, but there’s no accounting to prove how they actually use that money. This GAO report would shine a light on how our tax dollars are being spent.”
“I’m thrilled that GAO has agreed to again investigate the amount of taxpayer funding that has been allocated to Planned Parenthood and similar groups that perform or promote abortions,” Rep. Pete Olson said.
Olson continued: “Federal tax dollars are legally prohibited from being used for abortions. Under the U.S. constitution, the Obama Administration has a duty to enforce these laws. And under that same constitution, Congress has a duty to ensure that the executive branch follows the law of the land. I look forward to seeing the report and following up on behalf of all American taxpayers.”
“Despite the best and slickest market branding money can buy, the stubborn fact remains that Planned Parenthood clinics are among the most dangerous places on Earth for a child. It is deeply troubling that despite the fact that Planned Parenthood claims direct responsibility for killing over 6 million unborn babies, including a record 333,964 abortions in 2011 alone, they still receive taxpayer money—since Obama’s election, U.S. subsidies to the abortion industry at home and abroad, have significantly increased,” Olson added.
These members of Congress led a group of more than 50 members of Congress requesting a report from the GAO on how taxpayer funding is specifically used by Planned Parenthood and other federally funded organizations that perform or promote abortion. Black and Vitter are the lead sponsors of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217/S. 135), legislation to block any Title X federal funding from going to organizations that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.
Congressman Chris Smith concluded: “It’s time for Americans and especially Congress to take a second look and defund Planned Parenthood. I’m pleased that the GAO will be investigating how much taxpayer money the abortion industry is receiving. Hopefully this will help us finally put an end U.S. taxpayer support, funding and complicity with this violence against children.”
BY SUSAN MICHELLE TYRELL
August 2, 2013 (Live Action News) - Sometimes people march on the streets, and sometimes they march on Twitter. In this generation, a hashtag goes a long way in changing a situation. Live Action is now using this media to gain media attention. #MarchOnMedia is a Twitter rally taking place on Thursday, August 8, “ to protest the mainstream media’s censorship of the truth regarding abortion.”
Live Action has contacted the major media outlets, ABC, NBC, and CBS, asking for fair and accurate reporting of abortion-related issues. This Twitter rally, and a corresponding actual physical rally at ABC studios in Washington DC, aim to expose the partnership of the media with the abortion industry.
“The media has flinched from the reality of abortion for decades,” said Live Action President, Lila Rose, “we call on the press to end the censorship of what abortion actually does to our smallest children and women as well as an end to the lionizing of abortion advocates.
Live Action seeks to point the media in a new direction. The rally will focus both the dangers of the existing bias and on calling for change. As Ms. Rose commented, “A change is long overdue for our big news distributors. It’s time for these networks to end their blackout of the truth on abortion – how it irreparably harms women, babies, and society.”
While the accusations of medial collusion may seem to some mere paranoia from pro-lifers, the facts themselves prove otherwise. This page cites numerous recent stories in which the media blatantly displayed its bias—in just the past few months.
One example took place with the Texas pro-life legislation, one of the largest and most respected news services, the Associated Press (AP), tweeted with the hashtag #StandWithWendy, which was being used to support the Texas senator who became a household name overnight with her attempt to filibuster the legislation. Hailed a hero by Planned Parenthood, the AP seemed to get caught up in the whirlwind of hail Wendys until readers called the news association out on its tweet. The tweet disappeared—and so did they. No public apology was issued for a supposedly objective news organization with strong anti-bias policies at its core taking a decidedly pro-abortion stand on its public Twitter.
Davis seems to steal of a lot of the limelight, as other analysis showed she received three times the coverage as did abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the man who was convicted of three counts of murder and whose trial revealed details of destruction of babies far beyond our imaginations, all while running an abortion clinic. For some reason, a filibuster that supported the right to take a baby’s life and hold off legislation to prevent murder was worth more national media attention than this destruction which revealed the truth behind the pretty pink industry.
Live Action says, “enough” and says “participants are asked to join Live Action (@LiveActionFilms) in barraging the presidents of ABC, NBC, and CBS with tweets regarding the truth about abortion and calling for an end to media bias.” Use the hashtag #MarchOnMedia.
For further information see this page. Here’s the summary of what you need to know to participate:
What: Life March on Media Rally Twitter Rally for an end to the media cover-up of abortion.
Who: Everyone concerned about ending the media cover-up of abortion
Where: Twitter #MarchonMedia
When: Thursday, August 8, at 12:00 to 1:30 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite pledges to “get to the bottom” of the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups, pro-life activists, and Christians, the tax agency continued to ask inappropriate questions, allow interminable delays, and engage in “illegal” tactics, according to substantial evidence presented by a legal watchdog group.
The Thomas More Society submitted a new memo and 250 pages of additional evidence to Congressman Aaron Schock, R-IL, today.
The Chicago-based law firm had delivered a different 150-page memo to Rep. Schock in May, showing that the IRS asked such probing questions of one of the Society's clients, the Coalition of Life for Iowa, as, “Please detail the content of the members of your organization's prayers.”
The new evidence shows the agency has not reformed, using the same methods to deny or delay tax-exempt recognition to pro-life groups from 2009 until the present day.
“Even after public disclosure of this wrongdoing, the Obama administration’s IRS has refused to cease its illegal activity,” said Peter Breen, the society's vice president and senior counsel.
The 250-page exhibit involves three of the firm's client organizations: Cherish Life Ministries, LIFE Group, and Emerald Coast Coalition for Life.
Two of them, Cherish Life and LIFE Group, had multiple similarities:
Both were contacted by “Mrs. R. Medley” of the Cincinnati office of the IRS;
Both received identical denial letters on the same day, April 8;
Both were asked how much time they would spend being a “presence” in front of abortion facilities; and
Both were asked if they would present a competing view alongside the pro-life view.
For instance, Medley asked the LIFE Group on February 2, “Does your organization provide information regarding other alternatives to 'pro-life'? If so please indicate where.”
The group responded on February 15, “Any alternatives to pro-life would run directly contrary to the organization's beliefs, mission, and purpose…The ultimate purpose is to save the lives of both the mother and the child in a life-affirming way.”
The question outraged Peter Shinn when an agent asked him by phone. “Do you think that Planned Parenthood teaches pro-life?” he told LifeSiteNews.com in May. “I don’t think so.”
The IRS seemed keen to learn whether the right to life groups would standing in front of abortion facilities, asking all three the extent of their involvement outside such offices.
On June 19, IRS agent Tyrone Thomas asked ECCL, “Will you promote demonstrations and/or rallies at clinic and/or hospitals to stop abortions in your community? If yes, Please [sic] explain.”
However, nothing in the tax code prevents peaceful assembly or prayer.
After enduring months of harassing treatment, all three groups received the legal assistance of Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel at the Thomas More Society.
When Wagenmaker asked Medley why she asked unauthorized questions of Peter Shinn, the agent tried asked the same questions of the lawyer.
“First, Mrs. Medley asked more questions about the organization's activities, particularly whether CLM would have a 'continuous presence in front of abortion mills,'” Wagenmaker wrote. “I asked her about why, if that were true, that would be a problem given the CLM’s participants’ First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech, and religious liberty. She would not respond.”
Upon hearing the same line of questioning in the ECCL case, Wagenmaker wrote IRS officials on July 9, “Frankly, most of your questions do not appear to be warranted here.”
Both CLM and LG ultimately received 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. However, all three groups have experienced bureaucratic foot-dragging, as agents sometimes did not contact the organization for nine months at a time.
LG, best known for running alongside highways with t-shirts that bear a pro-life message as LIFE Runners, waited 15 months for its application to be approved. CLM's petition lingered with the agency for 16 months.
ECCL has waited 14 months and has not yet received the tax authorization to which Wagenmaker says it is entitled.
“We have now produced irrefutable evidence of six clients whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of their position upholding the sanctity of life,” Breen said this afternoon.
Although the Obama administration's defenders have tried to portray this action as confined to “rogue agents” in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, the six groups had also received such treatment from agents in Chicago, and El Monte, California.
One of the agents who wrote to ECCL was Lois Lerner, who oversaw whether non-profits were granted tax-exempt status. Lerner, who had a history of harassing Christian organizations in the Federal Election Commission, has since been placed on administrative leave.
When called before Congressional investigators, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination – but prefaced the motion by saying she was innocent.
Congressmen believe such a statement invalidates the Fifth Amendment's protection. She is now asking for immunity before testifying before the body.
Most Americans would favor sweeping new national restrictions on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But the poll also shows many Americans remain conflicted in their views on abortion.
By a margin of 59 percent to 30 percent, respondents to the new poll said they would favor a federal law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A recent United Technologies/National Journal poll found Americans divided over the possible ban, with a narrower plurality of 48 percent to 44 percent supporting it.
Respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll were split in their views on whether abortion should usually be legal or illegal, with a large number falling somewhere in the middle -- a finding consistent with other surveys. Nineteen percent said they think abortion should always be legal, while 27 percent said it should be generally legal, but with some restrictions. Another 17 percent said that abortion should always be illegal, while 30 percent said it should be generally illegal, except in special circumstances.
Wide variation in poll results is not unusual when pollsters ask about public policy issues, but the reason is usually public disengagement. Most Americans are unfamiliar with the details of many issues and legislative proposals, and so when asked about these, survey respondents often form opinions on the spot based on question wording.
With abortion, however, poll results frequently appear to vary for another reason. Americans have a variety of firmly held attitudes about abortion -- often grounded in personal experience or the experience of friends or family -- that are sometimes in conflict.
Results from the HuffPost/YouGov poll illustrate two of the most important conflicting attitudes. When asked about the morality of abortion, for example, roughly half say they consider abortion "morally wrong" (49 percent), while more than one-third say it is either "morally acceptable" (12 percent) or "not a moral issue" (24 percent). Another 15 percent are unsure.
At the same time, however, a large majority (63 percent) say that the statement "decisions on abortion should be made by a woman and her doctor" comes closer to their opinion on abortion, while only 26 percent say "government has a right and obligation to pass restrictions on abortion."
Combining responses to these two questions shows that a third (33 percent) take the "pro-choice" position in both instances, nearly a quarter (24 percent) take the "pro-life" position both times, but the largest group (38 percent) is conflicted. Most of these conflicted respondents (30 percent of the total) say that abortion is morally wrong (or are uncertain about its morality), but also believe that decisions on abortion should be made by a woman and her doctor, not the government.
These conflicting attitudes among the middle group help to explain the variation on polling results, and the receptivity of many Americans to "some" (but not all) restrictions on abortion. Most respondents who held consistently anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights views on the morality and role of government questions also fell into the corresponding categories on whether abortion should be generally legal or illegal. But the conflicted respondents tended to fall into the middle two categories -- saying that abortion should be legal in some situations, but not in all.
On a 20-week abortion ban, 70 percent of conflicted respondents said they were in favor of the measure, along with 30 percent of respondents who gave pro-abortion rights responses to both questions and 89 percent of those who gave anti-abortion responses to both.
But the underlying clash of values -- on morality and government's role -- tells only part of the story. "These kind of up-or-down [questions] on 20-week bans don't capture what happens in real life," Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg explained in a recent interview with The Huffington Post, "because in real life, people think abortion is a very complicated issue." Greenberg, who conducted a recent poll on the issue for the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that in focus groups, voters say "that you can never really know what somebody's individual circumstances are, and they can almost always think of some set of circumstances where it would be okay to have an abortion, whether that's rape, incest, life, health or other reasons."
Put it all together, and questions that focus on specific policy changes on this issue can be highly sensitive to question wording and the specifics of how a proposal is portrayed. (A proposal viewed as one that might shut down abortion clinics entirely, for example, might be viewed in a less favorable light.)
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted June 27-28 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.
The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.