Rubber-Baby Money Lumpers
The pro-life movement's contraception problem.
Ryan flunked this test. He voted, in NRLC's words, to provide "U.S.-funded contraceptive supplies."
The next scored vote came a month later. According to the score card:
Title X ("Title 10") of the Public Health Service Act provides more than $300 million annually for grants to state and private entities for "family planning" programs. Although federal law does not permit such funds to be used to pay for abortions, large amounts of Title X funds go to organizations that operate abortion clinics, including affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the nation's largest abortion provider. On July 19, 2007, during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, pro-life Congressman Mike Pence (R-In.) offered an amendment to prohibit any Title X funds from going to any arm of Planned Parenthood. The amendment did not reduce the amount of money appropriated for Title X overall.
Again, Ryan flunked. He voted to keep Planned Parenthood eligible for family-planning grants based on the premise, acknowledged by NRLC, that "federal law does not permit such funds to be used to pay for abortions."
The bill contained a section to establish an Office for Global Women's Issues, headed by an ambassador-at-large who will report directly to Secretary [Hillary] Clinton. Given the clear evidence that the Obama Administration State Department is determined to campaign for abortion, NRLC informed House members that NRLC opposed the bill, unless the House added an amendment proposed by Congressman Smith to prohibit the office from engaging in activities to change foreign abortion laws. However, the House Rules Committee—which is an arm of the leadership of the Democratic majority that controls the House—refused to allow the House to vote on the Smith Amendment, so NRLC opposed passage of the bill.
Again, Ryan flunked. He voted to fund the State Department, even though the secretary of state favored abortion rights.
So far, we've been through eight of NRLC's 10 scored votes for the last three years. They've been on stem cells, drug price controls, contraception, and funding the State Department. Not until two weeks ago did NRLC finally score a vote that was directly on abortion. Here's NRLC's description:
The District of Columbia is a federal jurisdiction which, under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, is completely under the legislative authority of Congress. Therefore, the entire budget for D.C. (including locally generated revenues) is appropriated by Congress as part of the annual "Financial Services appropriations bill." … in 2009, at the urging of the Obama White House, the House Appropriations Committee inserted new language in the bill to allow the D.C. city government to use locally generated (but congressionally appropriated) funds for abortion on demand. The House Democratic majority leadership did not allow the full House of Representatives to vote on an amendment to restore the traditional pro-life provision. Thus, NRLC opposed passage of the bill …
Ryan voted to let the D.C. budget go through because, as he put it, "Congress shouldn't tell the District of Columbia that it can't use its own money to fund abortions." NRLC's position is that there's no such thing as D.C.'s own money, since even the District's "locally generated revenues" are "appropriated by Congress." That's a defensible position. But while invoking this bookkeeping technicality, NRLC rejects such technicalities in the case of Planned Parenthood. Money for contraception? Money for abortion? In NRLC's view, it's all the same thing, no matter what the law says. Based on this view, NRLC flunked Ryan one more time on July 24, when he voted to let Planned Parenthood receive family-planning grants, again with the understanding that "federal law does not permit such funds to be used to pay for abortions."
Those are the 10 votes NRLC has scored since 2007. Of the first five, four were on stem cells; the other was on drug price controls. Of the most recent five, one was on abortion funding, another was on State Department appropriations, and three were on contraception. Compare this to 2003-2006, when 15 of the 22 votes scored by NRLC were directly on abortion, and Ryan's record on those 15 votes was, from an anti-abortion standpoint, nearly perfect. In 2007, Ryan began to flunk the scorecard because the scorecard was no longer primarily about abortion. It wasn't Ryan who changed. It was NRLC.
The same can be said of Democrats for Life of America. As evidence that Ryan isn't a "real" pro-lifer, Johnson points out that DFLA "kicked Ryan off their advisory board last year—and no, it wasn't because he supports contraception." Really? Let's check the record. In an article posted at Catholic Online two weeks ago, DFLA Executive Director Kristen Day explained Ryan's ouster this way:
[I]n the last year or so Congressman Ryan's voting record has become more and more pro-abortion. After his last vote in favor of taxpayer funded abortions, his credibility as a pro-life legislator has crumbled with the national pro-life community. These developments forced DFLA to quietly remove Congressman Ryan from the National Advisory Board last year.
Last year. That was 2008, before the votes on D.C. appropriations and the Obama State Department. The only funding votes Ryan had flunked at that point were on contraception. DFLA excommunicated Ryan for the same reason NRLC did: He disagreed with them on birth control.
I'd like to think NRLC and DFLA are anti-abortion, not anti-contraception. But when I look at them as Johnson would, ignoring their stated motives and focusing instead on their records, I can't really defend them.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of a condom by Photodisc/Getty Images.