“It’s a new day,” a despondent freshman congressman, Rep. James Lankford (R., Okla.), announced to me late Thursday. “If we’re writing grant proposals to specifically exclude Catholic charities, it’s a new day.”
His was the logical takeaway from Thursday’s hearing before the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which he sits on.
Lankford has a bill that would reform the grant process to make sure this kind of “earmark-like preference,” as committee chairman Darrell Issa put it today, would have to be voted on — out in the open. In this case, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had been administering a contract with HHS on human trafficking for five years. This year, though, they were dropped, because of an HHS insistence that all contractors be willing to promote the whole panoply of legal “reproductive health options.” In other words, they instituted “pro-abortion favoritism,” as New Jersey congressman Chris Smith put it.
But Lankford’s point about this being a milestone is an important one. We know this is an administration that favors legal abortion. We also know that there are Democrats who consider it an unjust surrender any time there is a single prohibition put on taxpayer funding of abortion (like the Hyde amendment, which covers Labor and HHS appropriations). But it is apparently current HHS policy that your work is ineligible for government funding if you are not willing to encourage abortion. This was a coalition program administered by the USCCB, which did not itself provide services. But the HHS will now only contract with organizations that will, for instance, send a pregnant sex-trafficking victim for abortion. (A little added victimization?)
And that does seem to be the case. Although the secretary of Health and Human Services has yet to address the issue, and the department has so far released only documents irrelevant to the question in hand, it remains the only explanation for why a program that was successful and recommended by HHS staff was broken off.
Lankford insists that it is an applicant’s right to know why he was rejected. It appears the reason is quite the outrage.