by Rob Schwarzwalder
March 4, 2009
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is not just another massive bureaucracy. It is the largest department in the federal government, with a proposed budget of $821 billion for 2010. In contrast, the Defense Department’s budget of $534 seems puny.
Much of the HHS budget is composed of outlays for two “entitlement” programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet HHS is a vast federal agency, laden with sub-agencies and programs, most of which are unfamiliar to the American people but many of which have a direct bearing on federal policy regarding pre-born life, in our own country and internationally.
Now, with the nomination of abortion advocate Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to be HHS Secretary, President Obama has signaled his willingness to use the nation’s largest Cabinet department as a means of advancing a radical abortion agenda.
In public life, personnel is policy: Political appointees are the ones who develop legislative goals, implement law and craft regulation. Given the profound importance of HHS for “the culture of life,” it is worth considering the kind of authority Gov. Sebelius— and those she places in positions of decision-making and policy influence — would have if she is approved to lead the department.
For example, HHS administers the Office of Public Health and Science, which contains within such important organizations as the Office of the Surgeon General, the Office of Population Affairs, the Office of Women’s Health and the President’s Council on Bioethics.
A Secretary Sebelius could also make sure abortion is encouraged to every pregnant Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) that is in the custody of HHS. And if she categorizes each of the pregnancies as a result of rape, then the federal taxpayer will pay for these abortions too. The US government has control of around 8000 UACs per year.
She could also examine all sorts of funding streams at HHS, including the Community Services Block Grant, the Social Services Block Grant, family planning waivers, community health centers, and others and find ways to funnel as much money as possible toward abortion providers.
The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for authorizing public release of such drugs as RU-486, “Plan B” and other abortafacients, is also housed within HHS. And the Administration on Children and Families, which under President Bush was at the forefront of encouraging abstinence education, could well be used to promote a pro-contraception agenda for American’s youth, instead.
The Medicare program funds health care for America’s seniors; Medicaid provides medical services to lower-income citizens. Under current law (the Hyde Amendment, authored by the late, great Congressman Henry Hyde [R-IL]), federal funding for Medicaid abortions is prohibited. Yet President Obama has stated that he wants to repeal the Hyde legislation and require taxpayers to foot the bill for abortions provided to lower-income women who receive Medicaid coverage.
HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) maintains an “Office of International Health Affairs,” which will help “coordinate and advance” the Obama Administration’s “international health policy.” A similar group, the Office of Global Health Affairs, exists within the Office of the Secretary under the direct supervision of the HHS Secretary. Given the “family planning” agenda of pro-abortion groups, these offices could become conduits for fostering abortion in impoverished regions worldwide.
Then, of course, there are the National Institutes of Health, a sprawling collection of 19 Institutes and seven Centers that deal with all facets of health care— including such things as embryonic stem cell research, bioengineering and human genome research. NIH also funds pre-natal and ultrasound research that is critical to the well-being of at-risk unborn children.
These and many other HHS centers, agencies and offices can and do perform tremendous services for the people of our country. However, they can also do great harm by fostering policies that are destructive of life— unborn life, most especially, in the United States and abroad.
Family Research Council is concerned that should Gov. Sebelius win Senate confirmation, she would bring a dramatically anti-life agenda to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children (born and unborn) and families, here at home and in developing nations around the world, could experience grave and bitter consequences during her tenure.
[Editor’s note: In 2001, FRC Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder was appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve as senior speechwriter for then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, where he served through 2002.]