Protecting Life

By Rep. Kristi Noem (March 21, 2017)

I still remember the first time Bryon and I heard our oldest daughter Kassidy’s heartbeat. There was no baby bump – yet. No baby clothes in the closet. No name picked out. I’m not even sure how many people in our family knew we were expecting at that point, but with the rapid, muffled thuds of our baby’s heartbeat in the background, we knew our lives were already changed.

I believe every life, including an unborn baby’s life, has dignity and value.  But more than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in direct contradiction to those principles. In the decades since, I – along with many in South Dakota – have been fighting to undo the damage.  While there’s still a long way to go, we’ve recently taken some meaningful steps forward.

President Trump came into office with a promise to nominate a Supreme Court Justice who would protect the constitutional rights of the unborn.  I’m hopeful the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch fulfilled that promise and I was glad to see him take the Oath of Office this April.

Days later, the president signed H.J.Res.43, which empowered states to defund abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood. Now, states can instead choose to use this money to support non-abortion-providing clinics that offer greater accessibility and a broader range of preventive health care services to women.

In South Dakota, there are more than 100 federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics that could benefit from these funds, but only one Planned Parenthood center. To say that we must fund Planned Parenthood or deny thousands of women care is a false choice. We can support women’s health – and specifically, health care for low-income women – without supporting abortion providers. I was proud to cosponsor this legislation, which notably doesn’t take a penny from women’s health initiatives, and was thrilled to see it earn the president’s signature.

But more must be done.  Time and again, Congress has opposed taxpayer-funded abortions with bipartisan support.  Annual provisions, including the Hyde Amendment, have been passed repeatedly, saving an estimated 2 million innocent lives.  Even with this provision in place, however, Obamacare has allowed your tax dollars to flow to over 1,000 abortion-covering health plans.  That’s unacceptable. We need to make the Hyde Amendment permanent and government-wide. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which I cosponsored and the House passed, would accomplish that.

Additionally, I’m working to protect doctors, nurses and others who don’t want to participate in abortions. In some cases, these individuals have faced discrimination and retribution for sticking to their principles. That shouldn’t happen. I’ve cosponsored legislation to protect these individuals and I’m fighting to see it pass the House and hopefully be signed into law soon.

Bryon and I knew our lives had changed when we heard Kassidy’s heartbeat for the first time and I hope she knows just how proud we are of the generous, compassionate person she’s become. She’s grown up quickly and I love to think back on those days when I was still taller than her.  We read a lot together back then.  One of our favorites was Dr. Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who,” which reads, in part: “A person is a person no matter how small.”  Each time we read that line, I’d think back to those first muffled thuds.  “A person is a person, no matter how small.”

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