Life.gov would include information about anti-abortion 'crisis pregnancy centers,' but not about Planned Parenthood.
House Republicans reintroduced a bill on Wednesday that would require the federal government to spend public funds on creating and operating an anti-abortion website. The move comes as the House GOP caucus has vowed to significantly shrink federal spending and cut anything its members deem unnecessary waste.
Republican South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace is the lead sponsor of the Standing with Moms Act, which would "require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to furnish tailored information to expecting mothers." GOP Reps. Pat Fallon (TX), Virginia Foxx (NC), Doug Lamborn (CO), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL) are original co-sponsors.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced an identical bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by 11
of his Republican colleagues.
In a press release on Thursday, Mace said:
It’s important we provide women with the family planning resources they need to carry a healthy baby to term and succeed as new mothers. The Standing with Moms Act will create a website called life.gov. This site will serve as a resource portal providing pregnant women in every state access to the most comprehensive network of resources available at the federal, state and local level as well as in the private sector. We’re partnering with Senator Marco Rubio who is introducing the Senate companion to ensure expecting mothers are supported across the country.
Mace and Rubio proposed the same legislation in the last Congress in July.
The text of that bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to create a federal 'life.gov' website to include "comprehensive information on alternatives to abortion," "information about abortion risks, including complications and failures," and "links to information on child development from moment of conception."
It would also provide information about accessing financial assistance, medical care, family planning education, adoption, foster care, and pregnancy support services, but would explicitly exclude any "entity, including its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, and clinics that performs, induces, refers for, or counsels in favor of abortions, or provides financial support to any other organization that conducts such activities."
The practical effect of this would appear to be that it would direct pregnant people to anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers," but not to the Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide care to about 2.5 million patients annually.
An estimated 4,000 anti-abortion "crisis" centers operate across the country, often providing false and misleading information in an attempt to manipulate patients into not terminating pregnancies. They typically circumvent medical regulations; many receive significant public funding.
The American Medical Association calls crisis pregnancy centers "legal, but unethical." In a 2018 article published in its AMA Journal of Ethics, authors and doctors Amy G. Bryant and Jonas J. Swartz said: "Because the religious ideology of these centers’ owners and employees takes priority over the health and well-being of the women seeking care at these centers, women do not receive comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information about all available options. Although crisis pregnancy centers enjoy First Amendment rights protections, their propagation of misinformation should be regarded as an ethical violation that undermines women’s health."
Mace's bill is the latest in a series of anti-abortion proposals by Republicans in the new Congress.
Earlier in January, Republicans passed a bill that would criminalize doctors who fail to provide medical care in the extremely rare situations in which a fetus survives an attempted abortion and a nonbinding resolution "condemning the recent attacks on pro-life facilities."
With a Democratic Senate, such GOP-backed measures are unlikely to make it to President Joe Biden's desk.
Mace has continued to support the anti-abortion bills while complaining about them, telling reporters on Jan. 10: "We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we're going to operate in the first week. Millions of women across the board were angry over overturning Roe v. Wade. … What we're doing this week is paying lip service to life. Nothing that we're doing this week on protecting life is ever going to make it through the Senate."
During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Jan. 22, Mace reiterated her objections to the GOP leadership's abortion strategy and called for a "middle ground."
But she defended her party's efforts to force negotiations on spending cuts as part of the process of raising the debt ceiling. "We have $31 trillion of debt. The responsible thing to do would be to get to the table with Republicans and negotiate a way. How do we prioritize spending? How do we balance the budget?"
Mace's official House website argues that Washington "has a spending problem" and endorses "a relentless approach to rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars."
In response to an inquiry from the American Independent Foundation on Thursday, a Mace spokesperson said, "This bill requires HHS to use funding that has already been allocated to them to create and maintain the website. The bill is also more than messaging in that it provides actual tangible tools for new mothers to more easily access the resources in their area."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.