Despite the brutal cold that enveloped Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the anti-choice activists who flooded the National Mall for the annual March for Life had a good day, one that began with a tweeted blessing from Pope Francis, and was capped off with a promise from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for a vote next week on HR 7, a sweeping anti-choice bill that would, among other things, create tax penalties on some who use their own funds to pay for abortions.
At a rally on the Mall preceding the march—an annual protest held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion—March for Life President Jeanne Monahan read the pope’s tweet to the largely Catholic crowd: “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”
Then she introduced Cantor, saying he had delayed his “flight to Israel” in order to be with the marchers. News reports actually showed Cantor scheduled to lead a congressional delegation to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, but either way the point was that Cantor changed his travel plans to address the anti-choice activists.
The majority leader did not disappoint his audience, drawing big cheers with his promise of a floor vote on HR 7, titled the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a name opponents take issue with, since taxpayer funding for abortion has long been prohibited under the Hyde Amendment and related measures. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other pro-choice members of the House contend that with its complicated tax-code penalties on both individuals and small businesses who purchase health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the ultimate aim of the bill is to make it difficult for insurance companies to provide abortion coverage, a fairly standard part of insurance plans, at all.
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Cantor, who faces a likely primary challenge from the right in his upcoming re-election campaign, lauded the activism of the marchers, talking of the “inalienable right to life” asserted in the Declaration of Independence in the context of abortion, and speaking of the “sanctity of life.” HR 7, he said, “will respect the morals and consciences of millions of Americans, and ultimately will save lives.”
“Getting this bill through the Senate, however, and signed by the president will be a much tougher task,” he continued. “But I can make you this promise: The people’s House will stand for life.”
He made a point of lauding the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who spoke next, accusing President Barack Obama of “using stealth, deception, and the coercive power of the state to promote abortion violence.”
Tax credits, such as the pre-tax dollars people are permitted to use for health expenses via health savings accounts (HSAs), in Smith’s view, amount to government subsidies. (In a press conference prior to last week’s mark-up of HR 7, Nadler suggested that the many houses of worship that enjoy tax exemptions might take issue with that construction, seeing as it would make them vulnerable to revocation of those exemptions under the First Amendment.)
Smith, however, is unfazed by such logic. “Under Obamacare,” he told the marchers, “billions of dollars, in the form of tax credits, are today buying abortion-subsidizing health insurance plans in exchanges throughout the country.”
Rounding out the roster of anti-choice members of Congress addressing the marchers was Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, who seemed to suggest that women facing unintended pregnancies should be made to bring their pregnancies to term because there aren’t enough babies available for adoption by infertile couples.
“Some pregnancies are unexpected, but no baby is unwanted,” Hartzler said. “Right now, one out of eight couples are having trouble getting pregnant, and hundreds of thousands are waiting in line for adoption—men and women who long to be called by those precious words, ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy.’ In 2007, there were only 18,078 infant adoptions in the United States, yet there were 1.2 million babies who never had the chance to live, to grow, to be part of a loving family who’s waiting for them, to welcome them home. This must change.”
After the rally, activists, many bearing “Defend Life” signs, passed out by the Knights of Columbus, marched from the Mall to the Supreme Court, where some held prayer vigils. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was hoisted up in front of a banner for Benedictine College of Atchison, Kansas, while protesters chanted the Apostle’s Creed.