Opening Statement of Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Trent Franks

Feb 9, 2011 Issues: Sanctity of Life
Good afternoon.
 
Pursuant to notice, the Subcommittee on the Constitution meets today to consider H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” 
 
This is the very first Constitution Subcommittee hearing in this, the new 112th Congress. It is such a privilege to be the new chairman of this subcommittee and to offer a heartfelt welcome to all of the members, witnesses and observers.
 
Daniel Webster once said, "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. [For] miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
 
Our Founding Fathers wrote the words of our Constitution down for us because they did not want us to forget their true meaning or to otherwise fall prey to those who would deliberately undermine or destroy it. This has always been the preeminent reason why we write down documents or agreements or declarations or constitutions in the first place: to preserve their original meaning and intent.
 
Protecting the lives of innocent Americans and their constitutional rights is why those of us in this room are all here. Indeed, this is why Congress itself exists. The phrases in the 5th and 14th amendments encapsulate our entire Constitution when they proclaim that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Those words are a crystal-clear reflection of the proclamation in the Declaration of Independence that declares that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
 
These words are the essence of America and our commitment to them for more than two centuries has set America apart as the flagship of human freedom and hope for the entire world.
 
And yet, unspeakable suffering and tragedy have occurred whenever we have strayed from those words. Our own United States Supreme Court ruled that millions of men and women and children were not persons under the Constitution because their skin was black. It took a horrible civil war and the deaths of over 600,000 Americans to reverse the unspeakable tragedy of that decision.
 
And we saw the same arrogance in 1973 when the Supreme Court said the unborn child was not a person under the Constitution; and we have since witnessed the silent deaths of now over 50 million innocent little baby boys and girls who died without the protection the Constitution gave them and this Congress should have given them.
 
HR 3 is a bipartisan bill that takes a step to turn America away from that tragedy. The bill forms part of the new majority’s Pledge to America, codifying the Hyde Amendment by permanently prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion across all federal programs. In addition, the bill protects healthcare workers’ rights of conscience so that they cannot be coerced to participate in abortion procedures as a condition of their employment. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner directed that this bill receive the designation of H.R. 3 as (quote) “one of our highest legislative priorities,” (unquote).
 
H.R. 3 is intended to continue the same policy as the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion except in cases of rape or incest, and contrary to some discussion in the press, this bill will not be a departure from the decades of implementation of the Hyde Amendment policy. Sponsors of the bill are reviewing clarifying language for amending H.R. 3, to assure lawmakers that funding policy, as it relates to cases of rape, will not be altered by this bill.
 
The second part of the bill provides necessary protection for healthcare workers who will not perform or refer for abortions as a matter of conscience. Those who believe that a pregnancy is a circumstance which presents with two patients - the mother, and the unborn child - cannot in good conscience do harm to that unborn child, and therefore should not be coerced into performing abortions, as could be required under the current health care system.
 
It is said that a government is what it spends. Planned Parenthood alone aborts over a quarter of a million unborn babies every year, all the while it receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal, state or local taxpayer funds. This legislation is really about whether the role of America’s government is to continue to fund a practice that takes the lives of over 1 million little Americans every year despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans -- even some of those who consider themselves pro-choice -- strongly object to their taxpayer dollars paying for abortion.
 
I believe the intensity of the debate surrounding this issue has something to do with our collective conscience. Perhaps it is because ultrasound technology is beginning to demonstrate to all reasonable minds the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of what is being done to them. We are beginning to realize that somehow, as Americans, we are bigger than abortion on demand; that 50 million dead children is enough; and we are beginning to ask the real question. Does abortion take the life of a child? If it does not, all of this is a nonissue. But if it does, then those of us sitting here in the chambers of freedom live in the midst of the greatest human genocide in the history of humanity.
 
Thomas Jefferson said that " The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government.'' Ladies and gentlemen, using taxpayer dollars to fund the killing of innocent unborn children does not liberate their mothers, it is not why those lying under the white stones out in Arlington National Cemetery died, and it is not good government.
 
Abraham Lincoln called upon all of us to remember America's founding fathers and (Quote) "their enlightened belief that nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows…” he reminded us, those he called posterity, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that some were not entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that(Quote) "their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began…”
 
May that be the commitment of all of us today…
 
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, and I now recognize the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. Nadler, for his opening statement.