Reading federal legislation is painful. It’s painful because (1) it is *so* boring and (2) it is difficult. Legislation is not written in the way people talk. Legislation is written by lawyers with a level of precision and specificity that makes it more difficult for the lay person to read instead of easier.
Even so, I would recommend that everyone take the time to read legislation, particularly, budget bills. I’ve spent most of the past week wading through the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Buried deep in these bills are a variety of changes to abstinence-only education which makes them relevant to my dissertation, hence, my crash course in reading legislation. I’ve learned some interesting things wading through legislation in the past few days. First, Fuck Reagan.
First, Fuck Reagan. Seriously, did you know it was the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act that, in addition to slashing social programs, upped the cap for monthly student loan repayments from $336 to $600? Yeah. Fuck that. It also slashed programs helping pregnant teens while claiming to care about preventing pregnancy. Imagine, for a moment, if we applied this logic to house fires: Well, if we slash the budgets of fire stations throughout the country, and take away their trucks and uniforms, then people will just have to be more responsible in making sure that their homes don’t catch on fire, or, if it does catch on fire, they’ll just have to own up to their responsibilities and watch it burn down.
Second, thank all the gods in Heaven and Earth for Ctrl+F. I know that you will take me up on my recommendation of reading more legislation so let me give you a few tips to make you not want to hurt yourself and others. (1) Google the bill or law you want to look at. One of Google’s top returns will be on congress.gov. Click on this. You definitely want to read the legislation from the Library of Congress and not anywhere else (this is a whole separate conversation) but their website is weirdly difficult to navigate and Googling it is ten times easier. (2) You probably don’t want to read the whole bill unless you are a law student or a lobbyist. Meet your new best friend: Ctrl+F. Use it to find the portion of interest you. Might I humbly suggest looking at either of the two pieces of legislation I name above and using Ctrl+F to search for the word “abortion?”
Why, you ask? Good question. This brings me, at long last, to my point.
If you engage in the painful but worthwhile practice of reading legislation you’ll notice a few things pretty quickly. First, there is a rider attached to funding appropriations insisting that 1-3% of funds apportioned in the bill should be set aside for conducting a review of the efficiency of the program. This isn’t really germane to my point but I found it super interesting and wanted to share it.
Second, and this is what I’ve been getting to, FEDERAL MONEY DOESN’T GO TO ABORTION. Read the legislation, folks. None of the federal monies that go to Planned Parenthood are used for abortion–they are prevented from doing this because of clauses in the laws that govern funding to community health organizations. In every piece of legislation that deals with funding for community programs to help pregnant women there is ALWAYS a clause that says something like “none of these funds can be used for abortions.” Sometimes it’s the more expansive, “abortion-related services” which includes not just the (safe, legal) medical procedure itself but things like a health-care practitioner talking about abortion with her client.
Think, for a moment, about how odd this is.
We can compare these provisions in legislation governing federal appropriations for social services for pregnant women, which is a very, very small part of the federal budget, to the thing our government spends the most money on: military spending.
We spend a truly ludicrous amount on our military and most of that goes to defense contractors. (As they granddaughter, daughter, and stepdaughter of military men I can tell you it sure as hell isn’t going to pay the folks in our armed services or for the veteran care they were promised.) Imagine a bill, say a budget bill, laying out how much money Congress is setting aside for military spending next year. Somewhere in that bill will be a passel of regulations on how much money can be spent on purchasing weapons from defense contractors. Now, imagine that as a rider to that bill on how much money the government can pay for drones and fighter planes and the other things they love, is a clause saying, “None of the funds apportioned in the act can be used on military equipment that would kill people.”
Does that make sense?
It should, and here’s why.
If the purpose of curtailing federal funds on reproductive health care is to make sure that no funds go to abortion as it is the murder of human life, then no funds in military spending should go to technologies that result in the taking of a human life.
That is, if the concern that motivates these restrictions is really for the sanctity of human life, then it should extend to all human life, not just fetuses. And yet.
If your concern for whether or not our government pays to kill people begins and ends in the womb than your compassion is not Christian and it’s time to stop telling yourself it is.
If your engagement in political debate about how our government kills people is limited to whether or not those people reside in someone else’s womb then it’s time to admit that you care more about regulating certain bodies than you do about who lives or dies.
I don’t take issue with folks who believe life starts at conception. I take issue with folks who don’t take that view to its logical conclusion. If all abortion is bad because it is murder then all drone warfare is bad because it too ends human life.