Scott Tibbs

Back to opinion page.

The First Amendment is not a cash cow

For Americans concerned about protecting the right to life of unborn children, the Bush presidency started out with a bang. On Bush's second full day in office, he repealed an executive order signed by Ex-President Clinton allowing federal tax dollars to go to organizations that perform or advocate abortion.

This will bring out the predictable cries from the Left on how "extreme" President Bush is, and how he shouldn't govern from the "far right" given his narrow victory.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that this is hardly a far-right decision. It is simply the government resuming its pre-Clinton policy of taking a neutral stance on the abortion issue when it comes to subsidizing the abortion industry. Whatever one thinks about abortion, it is wrong to force pro-life Americans to subsidize a procedure they believe is the taking of an innocent human life. Withholding financial support from pro-abortion organizations is not a statement in favor of or against abortion in and of itself, it is merely a position of neutrality.

And why should Bush not pursue a pro-life agenda? He made it clear during the campaign that he was pro-life, supported the pro-life plank in the Republican platform, and won the election as a pro-life candidate. It is entirely appropriate for the President to keep his promises and pursue his agenda.

And while the Left attacks Bush for this decision, Leftists ignore the fact that had Bill Clinton not changed previous government policy immediately upon entering office, the Bush executive order would not have been needed. It was Clinton that took the extremist position by funding pro-abortion groups. And while Bush narrowly lost the popular vote by less than one half of one percent in an election where voters were basically split 50-50, Clinton entered office in 1993 after 57% of the voters chose someone else. Yet we did not see the hand wringing over Clinton's truly extremist position that we see because Bush returned policy to a neutral position.

Pro-abortion groups are also complaining that the Bush decision is "an affront to free speech", which could not be more disengaged from reality. The fact of the matter is that President Bush is not abridging the actual speech of pro-abortion groups, he is simply not subsidizing their activities with tax dollars. Abortion supporters can still speak as forcefully and freely as they wish, and Bush will not interfere with this.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups apparently view the First Amendment as a cash cow, entitling them to the confiscated earnings of everyday Americans so they may push a pro-abortion message. But the fact of the matter is that the First Amendment forbids any law "abridging the freedom of speech". The Constitution does not contain a provision guaranteeing access to federal funds for groups with a political agenda.

The decision by President Bush was a good one, but must be followed up both by the President and by Congress to de-fund more political organizations that receive taxpayer dollars, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, and it must extend to organizations both foreign and domestic. While it is often necessary for the government to pass legislation on divisive matters, it is not the business of government to take sides on the debate itself by subsidizing one side or another. This is especially true on an issue like abortion, where people have such deeply held moral convictions.