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Senate vote allows states to redirect funds away from abortion clinics

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WASHINGTON — The Senate voted late March 30 to override a rule change made by in the last days of the Obama administration that prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from clinics that performed abortions and to community clinics that provide comprehensive health care.

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

People pass a Planned Parenthood clinic March 17 in New York City. The U.S. Senate voted March 30 to let states cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. (CNS photo/Justin Lane, EPA)

“The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy, and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care,” he said in a March 31 statement.

Midday March 30, Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, cast a tiebreaking vote that allowed Senate action to proceed on a joint resolution to block the Obama-era regulation that went into Jan. 18, two days before President Barack Obama left office.

Pence also had to cast a second tiebreaking vote so the Senate could pass the measure.

The joint resolution, H.J. Res. 43, was introduced in the House by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee. It passed 230 to 188 on Feb. 16, a vote that was largely along party lines.

In the Senate, the measure was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Her fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against allowing the legislation to move forward and then against the bill itself.

Republicans control the Senate by only a 52-48 margin, so Pence was called on twice to break a 50-50 tie. Now the measure goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.

Title X of the Public Health Services Act was passed by Congress in 1970 to control population growth by distributing contraceptives to low-income families. Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of Title X funding. Planned Parenthood also is the nation’s largest abortion network — performing over a third of all abortions in the U.S. It receives more than half a billion dollars in federal funding each year.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion already is prohibited, but federal family planning funds were allowed to go to clinics and facilities for other health services.

States have been acting on their own to prohibit Title X funding to agencies performing abortions.

The joint resolution is one of a series of bills Congress has passed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows federal regulations put in place during the final days of the previous administration to be rescinded by simple majority passage.

In a letter to House members urging them to vote for H.J. Res. 43, National Right to Life wrote: “Long-standing objections to the massive governmental funding of PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) have been reinforced by widely publicized undercover videos, which illuminate the callous brutality that occurs daily in these abortion mills.”

After the House vote, Ernst said in a statement she was “committed to restoring our states’ ability to make their own decisions about the best eligible Title X providers for folks.”

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Jubilant crowd gathers in Washington for annual March for Life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of pro-lifers filled the grounds near the Washington Monument and marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27 as both a protest of legalized abortion and a celebration of successful pro-life efforts across the country.

Students from the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., holds signs during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Students from the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., holds signs during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

In years past, the March for Life, which takes place on or near Jan. 22 to mark the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand, has been almost a battle cry for the uphill and constant fight faced by those in the pro-life movement hoping for more abortion restrictions and ultimately an end to abortion.

This year’s March for Life, under mostly sunny skies and 40-degree temperatures, was decidedly more upbeat, in part because one of the first speakers was Vice President Mike Pence: the first time a vice president attended the rally.  (See story below.)

Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, and the first on the speakers’ list to address the group, holding aloft placards but none of the usual giant banners, which were banned for security reasons, similarly got plenty of cheers when she said: “This is a new day, a new dawn for life.”

The scheduled presence of the vice president, only announced the day before, required the rally perimeter to be fenced in and the crowd to enter through long lines that had formed at security checks. Participants seemed unfazed by the required wait, taking it in stride with the day. Some pulled out their pre-packed lunches and started eating, others prayed the rosary. These marchers are used to hardships from weather conditions alone at the annual march.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noted that the group has been marching in all types of bad weather over the years. She also pointed out that amid recent discussion about crowd size at events in Washington, it was hard to measure the number of people that day or for the total who have come out for the annual march over the past four decades. “The only number we care about is the 58 million” lost to abortion since it was legalized, she said.

As in years past, the crowd was primarily young, with a lot of high school and college-age groups. It was something the speakers took note of, saying this generation would not only keep the pro-life movement going but bring about changes.

Mary Ann Vann, a retiree who made the trip from Trussville, Alabama, for her sixth march, said the most exciting thing for her each time she has taken part is seeing the young people.

Vann, a parishioner at Holy Infant of Prague Parish in Trussville, said she hoped the energy at the march could be channeled into everyday support for the pro-life movement, something she is involved with on a regular basis with sidewalk counseling, volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and helping young mothers with basic needs. She also said she is disheartened by hearing those who say pro-lifers are only concerned about babies because she and her fellow volunteers not only bring pregnant women to their doctor’s appointments but also help pay their medical costs.

Jim Klarsch, a member of St. Clement Parish in St. Louis, who came with a busload of eighth-graders, also is  involved with pro-life work with the Knights of Columbus at his parish. In Washington on his second march, he said the experience was “empowering.”

Standing alongside Constitution Avenue waiting for the march to begin, he said the crowd, which was already filling the street to each side and behind him as far as the eye could see, reinforced his feeling that “this is not just a day but a lifelong mission.”

“You’re part of a pilgrimage. You take that experience home and you live it,” he added.

Some noted that the march had a distinctly different tone than the Women’s March on Washington six days before. Two sisters who stood on the sidelines with some of the few handmade signs at the march, described themselves as feminists and said they found the pro-life march more positive and less angry.

“This is a message of love,” said Bridget Donofrio, from Washington, holding aloft a poster-board sign with words written with a black marker: “Respect all women born and unborn.”

Many of the march signs were pre-made placards with messages such as “I am pro abundant life” or “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I am the pro-life generation.”

On the Metro, when two older women asked a young woman for directions and pointed to the group with signs that they wanted to join, the woman looked up from her phone and asked if there was a protest today.

“It’s the March for Life,” one woman said. A few seconds later she added: “It’s not a protest; it’s more of a celebration.”

     

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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‘Life is winning in America,’ Pence tells March for Life rally

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence told pro-life advocates from across the U.S. Jan. 27 that “life is winning in America, and today is a celebration of that progress.”

Pence addressed the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, making him the highest government official to address the annual event in person. As a member of Congress, he had addressed the March for Life in previous years, including 2002, 2003 and 2007.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a rally at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a rally at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

“More than 240 years ago, our founders declared these truths to be self-evident, that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence, because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in rallies across this country, life is winning again in America.”

Pence said President Donald Trump had asked him to address the March for Life rally. “He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life and your compassion for the women and children of America.”

“Our president is a man with broad shoulders, a big heart,” Pence said. “His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and I know he will make America great again. From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people. Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business.”

He pointed to Trump’s Jan. 23 executive action reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion in other countries. He said the administration would work with Congress to stop taxpayer funding of abortion “and devote those resources to health care services for women across America.”

On Jan. 24, the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, making the 41-year-old Hyde Amendment permanent. The amendment, which has had to be approved each year as part of the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits tax dollars from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life. The Senate has yet to act on a companion bill, but Trump has said he will sign it into law when the measure reaches his desk.

“I urge you to press on,” Pence told the March for Life rally-goers. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment. To heal our land and restore a culture of life, we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and shows the dignity and worth of every person.”

Pence’s wife, Karen, introduced her husband. She noted this March for Life was not the first for the Pence family; they have attended the event for the past 16 years, “but it is the warmest,” she jddoked. By midday, the temperature in Washington was in the low 40s. Previous marches have taken place in frigid temperatures. Last year’s turnout was affected by a blizzard.

Karen Pence said of her husband that she had never met anyone “who has more compassion for women, for children and for the American people. He’s one of the kindest people that I know.”

Before Pence spoke, Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, took the podium.

“I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America, and yes, I am pro-life,” Conway said. “It is such an honor to stand with the vice president of the United States and so many leaders, families and students from places near and far (today).”

“Your courage, your conviction and your faith are impressive and consequential,” she told the crowd. “This is a new day, a new dawn for life. Why are we here? What does it mean to stand together to be part of this incredible movement, to face criticism, ridicule, and laws and lawmakers (against life)? It means to protect and promote the most precious gift in the world, the gift of life. It means to stand up stand tall and stand together against the indifference and the indefensible and on behalf of babies in the womb.

“This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life and pro-adoption movement,” she continued. “Women who face troubled pregnancies should know they are not alone, that they are not judged, they are protected and cared for and celebrated.”

Conway told pro-life supporters: “Allow me to make it very clear; we hear you, we see you, we respect you, and we look forward to working with you, and yes, we march, we walk, we run and endeavor forward with you.”

At midday, there was no official crowd count from the March for Life organization. A CNN reporter said there were attendees “as far as the eye could see.”

After a lineup of speakers, rally participants planned to march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

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