Abortion politics and the government shut down

 GOP efforts to defund abortion is contributing to the imminent government shut down, but maybe shouldn't be Photo: Associated Press

Washington, DC, April 7, 2011 — All the nation is abuzz and nervous about the possibility of the federal government shutting down this weekend if the Democrats and Republicans in Congress cannot agree with a final 2011 budget  by this Friday. 

In the meantime, some are tinkering with the idea of Congress passing yet another continuing resolution (CR) for at least one more week. This measure would buy some time while legislators work on the details of a long term budget. 

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio,) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) (Photo: Associated Press)

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio,) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) (Photo: Associated Press)

 

This would be the third CR in a row, but most agree passing successive temporary funding resolutions is no way to run a government.  Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama have both agreed that federal administrators need certainty when planning out their budget years beyond a week or two. 

The president has rejected the latest Republican proposed CR because it contained several policy riders in it.  The purpose of these riders is to shuttle through GOP priorities such as cutting abortion funding.

This morning, on a local DC television station,  DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke passionately against one of the CR riders that would limit the DC government from spending tax dollars to provide abortion services to low income women for the rest of the year.  

The issue raises a conundrum for those who are pro-life and want or need the government to continue to be funded for their own livelihood.  Inserting riders in budget legislation may not be the best way to promote the pro-life agenda, at least because of the backlash that may result.  Ask Wisconsin republicans about backlash.

Realistically,  many women who have unplanned pregnancies, especially those from low-income households, may not be financially capable of raising their child, may not be in a committed monogamous or married relationship with the father of their unborn child and may be psychologically unprepared to be a parent.

Defunding abortion services serve at least two roles: 1. it legislates behavior by foreclosing the abortion option for those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves, which may in turn encourage more responsible sexual behavior; and 2. it relieves pro-life taxpayers from the burden of having their tax dollars used to fund a procedure that is against their morals and values.

The issue though with abortion politics in budget riders is that it is often times paired with plans to cut programs like Women Infant Children (WIC), Headstart and other domestic aid programs that help women raise the children they opted not to abort even though they had limited income to care for them. The point of government assistance is just that; to assist, and for sure not be a crutch. 

Certainly, it is not ideal for citizens to live their entire lives on government assistance.  Further, reliance on government aid should not be cyclical nor persist across generations of a family, though currently, in America, this is the case for many. 

However, it would be irresponsible to ignore the fact that government assistance does play a critical role for the livelihoods of women and children, and in particular women who have unplanned pregnancies. For example,  a young college student who gets accidentally pregnant could get vouchers until she graduates and is able to care for her child without assistance.

There is a clear disconnect, however, between abortion-defunding initiatives and programs that assist the products of unplanned pregnancies - those that are born into this world because their mothers had limited options, including the option of having the government fund their abortion. In the simplest terms, the message is, “We don’t want you to abort your baby, but when you deliver it, we’re not going to help you care for it either.”

Understandably, a tangential goal of removing the public-funded abortion option is perhaps to curtail behavior that lead to unplanned pregnancies in the first place.  The thinking may be that if a woman realizes that an abortion paid by the government is not an option, she and her partner will make better choices, be careful about getting swept up in the moment, and think about their capacity and financial limitations before engaging in risky behavior like unprotected sex.

The fact of the matter though is that these behaviors continue and are hard to eliminate; contraception sometimes fail and we, as a nation, have a while to go before we get to the point that most women and men behave as responsible as possible to avoid unplanned pregnancies they cannot handle.

Until we get to that ideal point in the future, it may be wholly counterproductive for legislators to impose abortion de-funding efforts while in the same breadth and depth make deep cuts to social welfare programs that target women and young children who rely on those programs to give them that temporary leg up.  This is the case when there are other budget line items that could be scaled back instead of these programs.

While budget cuts do indeed need to be made to help alleviate the budget deficit, attention should be paid when the cuts are inconsistent with other policy initiatives.  Otherwise those who consider themselves “pro-family” will reveal that their narrow view of family is limited to nuclear two parent married families, and that others that do not fit into that mold are out of luck.

Like our elders always told us, there is a time and place for everything.

A long term comprehensive strategy that includes education and support is better for limiting abortions performed in this country than allowing abortion politics to be fuel in a government shutdown crisis.

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaks.com and Politic365.   She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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