What if I told you the only significant influence the President of the United States has on the economy is in selecting the Chairman of the Federal Reserve? While the role of the President in managing the economy is often overstated, most serious voters would rightly dismiss such a narrow claim as absurd. Yet how often do we hear the similarly bizzare assertion that the only significant role the President plays in advancing the pro-life agenda is nominating Supreme Court justices?
The fact is that the President has a limited but substantial and broad-based role in protecting life and defending the most vulnerable in society. The presidential election season is a prime time to provide a reminder of some of the reasons why it's important for Presidents to be pro-life.
1. Preserving the Pro-Life Riders
Each year pro-life provisions or "riders" are attached to the annual appropriations bills, preventing public funds from supporting abortions, abortion providers, or abortion promoters. The pro-life riders are attached to funding legislation and typically come up in the appropriations process or Department of Defense reauthorizations. For example, under President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush, federal regulations were clearly written to prevent recipients of Title X funds—such as Planned Parenthood—from referring for abortions or combining family planning services with abortion services (i.e., working at the same location).
Examples of past and present pro-life riders include:
- The Dickey-Wicker provision, which prohibits federal funding for research that harms or destroys human embryos.
- The Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which prevents funding from going to those who support or participate in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
- The Hyde-Weldon provision, which offers conscience protections for health care entities that refuse to provide or encourage abortions. It requires federal funds to be withheld from any state that discriminates against a hospital, insurance provider, or individual doctors and nurses for refusing to participate in abortion.
- The Mexico City Policy, first enacted by Reagan and later reinstated by George W. Bush, which prohibits USAID (foreign aid) money from going to any organizations that promote or perform abortions. President Obama was in office three days before overturning this policy.
- Other provisions that are more specific include bans on funding for: abortions for federal prisoners, abortion in the District of Columbia, abortions through the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, abortions through Peace Corps, and abortion through the international HIV/AIDS bill.
A pro-life President can use the veto power (or simply threaten to use the veto) to prevent the removal of such riders. Pro-abortion Presidents, however, have historically vetoed legislation that included these pro-life provisions or repealed them using executive orders (see below).