My Ideas for 2021 Legislation
The 117th U.S. Congress started on January 3, 2021.
Reminder: Opinions are those of the author and aren’t official for the Consistent Life Network as an organization.
by Rachel MacNair
My mind isn’t of the lobbying sort; my mind is of the conflict-resolution sort. This mainly means looking at the interests people have, rather than merely butting up against their hardened positions. The ideal is to then come up with creative solutions that address everyone’s interests. Failing that, we can at least have a good horse-trade in which each side gets what it most cherishes and isn’t quite as concerned about what it was that they gave up.
Some of these ideas don’t really have a chance, and I offer them to speak in a moral prophet’s voice. Others might be quite workable or could be developed into something workable.
U.S. Congressional Legislation
Title X Funding
Title X provides funding for family planning. A rule that recipients couldn’t do or refer for abortions finally went into effect a couple of years ago, and Planned Parenthood has accordingly turned down Title X money for its own program.
Democrats have never liked this rule. Since it was put in place by executive order, it can be taken out the same way. Rescinding the rule will probably be among the earlier acts of a Biden administration.
But since the family planning funding is what’s most dear to most Democrats, and the rule that it not go to abortion is most important to many Republicans, how about this: triple the amount of funding for Title X, in exchange for having the rule about no abortions in the legislation.
This solidifies the rule, rather than having it go back and forth depending on which party is in power. Will Democrats give up a chance to triple the family planning funds for the sake of abortion?
Community Health Centers
Both Republicans and Democrats support Community Health Centers, and it’s already in the CHC’s legal definition that they don’t do abortions. Funding more of them is therefore a workable way to increase healthcare access, one that a gridlocked Congress may be able to do.
Republicans can be further incentivized if some CHC locations can be near to the 69 Planned Parenthood locations that currently have no CHCs within five miles. This provides competition for PP. It also takes away from them the argument that they need tax dollars because they serve in under-served areas, since the areas wouldn’t be under-served any more.
Making Hyde Permanent
The Hyde Amendment bars federal Medicaid dollars from paying for most abortions. It’s a rider every year. It’s a life-saving measure, as shown in studies. It’s helpful to low-income women as well, since it removes some of the pressures to abort.
While Joseph Biden used to support it, he changed his mind last year when running for president. The 2020 Democratic platform calls for repealing it. Election results show this unlikely in the Senate. Still, it’s quite close, and far more precarious than it’s ever been since it first passed.
We really need a permanent Hyde provision, in legislation that doesn’t require annual renewal. Dealing with Medicaid, Hyde is in the health care realm, and Democrats may be keener on passing something toward health care reform than they are on dispensing with the Hyde principle. They could try to pass something Republicans could tolerate – say, lowering the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60.
I put that in terms of what Democrats and Republicans could tolerate for a bargain, but of course there are plenty of us that would see both sides of the bargain as progress and a delight.
The International Community
Members of the U.S. Congress and the new president are unlikely to consider these, but we should be aware these are out there, with many nations having ratified:
United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The treaty has already been ratified by more than 50 nations, and is therefore going into effect this coming January 22. Nations that actually have nuclear weapons are, unfortunately, ignoring it.
OHCHR | Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This aims for the abolition of the death penalty. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly December 15, 1989. The Republic of Kazakhstan was the 88th nation to sign, and did so September 23, 2020.
A New Anti-Coercion Constitutional Amendment
We need to abolish slavery entirely by removing the exception for those convicted of a crime. Last November, Nebraskans voted to remove it from their state constitution by 63%, and Utahans did so by 80%. Back in 2018, Coloradoans did so by 66%. Ten states still have this exception to outright slavery in their constitutions.
But the exception is also in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Meanwhile, there are two horrendous court decisions that, unlike Roe v. Wade, everyone pretty much agrees now were horrendous: Buck v. Bell, and Korematsu.
The ruling in Buck v. Bell essentially said it was fine to coerce eugenic sterilizations. Laws allowing for this are all gone now, and the ruling is currently widely held in disdain. But this and other forms of reproductive violence against those with disabilities, and targeted to certain ethnic groups, are still not countered by constitutional protection.
Korematsu allowed the U.S. government to intern Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II. In a remark in another case, Chief Justice John Roberts said it was “gravely wrong on the day it was decided” and that it has been “overruled in the court of history.” Many people interpreted this as overruling the case, but this is ambiguous. Roberts’ point was to say that neither Korematsu nor the revulsion against it applied to the case at hand.
Neither of these two cases is as firmly overturned as needed. There are only indications they’re no longer regarded as precedent. The court can’t just overturn a ruling because it takes a notion to, but has to do so based on a case in front of it.
The cases aren’t coming because no one takes those rulings seriously any more. Overturning them isn’t controversial. It just can’t be done without a pertinent case – or a constitutional amendment.
What all three problems have in common is that they’re forms of coercion – slavery for those committed of a crime, involuntary sterilization, incarceration because the government decides an entire ethnic group is a war-time threat. They all have racism in their very foundations. Buck v. Bell also includes bigotry against people with disabilities (or, in this particular case, working-class people sloppily understood to have disabilities).
Therefore, all three could fit in one theme. There was already a a joint resolution which was introduced last December, calling on the U.S. Senate and House to craft an amendment saying “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude may be imposed as a punishment for a crime.” This is likely to be introduced again this coming session. Therefore, it’s realistic to think that at least there may be legislation on the first problem alone that we can advocate on, and that in itself would be good. Whether adding on ways of overturning the two court decisions, when there’s pretty much a consensus that they should be overturned, is something to think about.
As you can see above, these are generated under brainstorming rules. The ideas may be followed up on. They may generate other ideas to be followed up on. Or they may serve as nothing more than social commentary on what our legislators could do but won’t. Anyone who has any other ideas, please put them below in the comments, and/or send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For related posts, see:
Why the Hyde Amendment Helps Low-Income Women
Our Experience with Overturning Terrible Court Decisions
Leave a Reply