WASHINGTON – With the 2019 March for Life coming up this Friday, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the importance of protecting life, urging Congress to act on pro-life legislation.

She highlighted bills that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of development; force abortion practitioners to provide the same degree of care to a baby who survives an abortion as any child born naturally premature; and, ensure no taxpayer dollars will be used to subsidize abortion procedures and abortion industry giants, like Planned Parenthood.

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On the Senate floor, Senator Ernst said:

“I am pleased to be joined on the floor today by Senators Blunt, Wicker, and Fischer to speak about the importance of protecting, and celebrating, life.

“This Friday, Americans from every state in our nation – from tiny, rural towns to bustling urban cities – will gather in our nation’s capital to participate in the 46th Annual March for Life.

“Each year, I am amazed and inspired by the immeasurable strength, compassion, and support demonstrated by the pro-life community as hundreds of thousands of its members come to Washington D.C. and tirelessly work to protect the most vulnerable in our society – the unborn.

“As members of the Senate Values Action Team, throughout the year, we are blessed with the opportunity to work with and hear from so many who are committed to protecting human life at all stages.

“I thank my colleagues for sharing this message of life today, and I would like to yield to the senator from Missouri.

“As my colleagues can attest, the invaluable message being shared by the pro-life community this week has implications far beyond the March for Life.

“As I travel in my home state of Iowa, I see this life-affirming message in our pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies.

“These comprehensive, on-the-ground services provide women and families with service options that are changing, and saving, lives every single day. These life-affirming services are the foundation of the pro-life movement across our nation, and I sincerely thank these centers and agencies for their critical work to fight for vulnerable lives throughout the year.

“I see this same message in the remarkable stories of individual families, such as the Pickering family from Newton, Iowa. I have had the opportunity to share the phenomenal story of Micah Pickering on the Senate floor before.

“As you may recall, Micah was born at just 20 weeks post-fertilization. He was only about the size of a bag of M&Ms – the size of the palm of my hand. Yet Micah was also a perfect, fully-formed baby boy, with 10 fingers and 10 toes. In fact, no one makes this points more eloquently than Micah himself.

“When I first met Micah, I had a picture of him displayed in my office from the day he was born. He immediately ran up to the picture, pointed it at, and said “Baby!”

“Micah recognized right away that even at just 20 weeks, the humanity of these children is undeniable. Micah’s parents and the doctors and nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics recognized this humanity as well and were dedicated to his survival. Today, Micah is a happy, healthy, energetic 6-year old boy.

“Stories like Micah’s are extraordinary reminders of how the life-affirming services that the pro-life community marches for have real and significant impacts on the lives of families across America.

“Since coming to Congress, I have also tried to do my part to ensure that this message from those in my home state of Iowa – and from others in communities across our nation – is taken back and turned into action in Washington.

“For me, that has meant supporting crucial pro-life initiatives like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prevent abortions after 20 weeks of development – the very same age at which Micah was born.

“Another critical piece of legislation, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, would create concrete enforcement provisions to hold abortionists accountable if they do not provide the same degree of care to a baby who survives an abortion as they would any child born naturally premature at the same age.

“Fighting for common sense legislation that protects innocent life has been a priority of mine in the Senate. But Congress must also do more to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to subsidize abortion or abortion industry giants such as Planned Parenthood.

“During the 115th Congress, I led the fight in the Senate to pass critical legislation – which was signed into law in 2017 – that ensures states are not forced to provide entities like Planned Parenthood – the nation’s single largest provider of abortions – with federal Title X dollars.

“I am grateful to have worked with former Congresswoman Diane Black, my Senate colleagues, and President Trump to make sure states are not forced to award providers like Planned Parenthood with taxpayer dollars through Title X family planning grants.

“As I have stated time and again, taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for roughly half a billion dollars annually for an organization like Planned Parenthood that exhibits such disrespect for human life. With that in mind, today I reintroduced legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood while still protecting vital funding for women’s health care services.

“Contrary to what they claim, Planned Parenthood is not the nation’s preeminent provider of women’s health care. In fact, Planned Parenthood facilities do not even perform in-house mammograms.

“On the other hand, community health centers continue to greatly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide and provide more comprehensive preventative and primary health services – including cervical and breast cancer screenings, diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, well-child care, prenatal and postnatal care, immunizations, and so much more.

“Access to comprehensive health services is absolutely critical to women and families across this nation, and federally qualified health centers offer such services – regardless of a person’s ability to pay. 

“A recent GAO study that I requested, along with many of my colleagues in both the House and Senate, showed that over a three-year period, federally qualified health centers served 25 million individuals compared to only 2.4 million individuals at Planned Parenthood – that’s more than ten times more people served.

“Furthermore, a recent Marist poll shows that 54% of Americans do not support taxpayer dollars going toward abortions.

“While there are federal regulations that prevent federal dollars from directly covering abortion, these laws are governed by a complicated patchwork of policies and funding riders that must be reapproved during the appropriations process each year. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been attached to appropriations bills in order to block federal funds from paying for abortion.

“However, this policy, which once drew widespread, bipartisan support has recently been under attack. For the first time ever, the Affordable Care Act authorized and appropriated funds that bypassed Hyde Amendment funding restrictions. In 2016, the Democratic Party added the repeal of Hyde Amendment protections to its presidential platform.

“The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding and critical provision that protects federal dollars and ensures taxpayers are not footing the bill for abortion procedures.

“That is why I support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019, which was recently reintroduced in the Senate.

“This legislation would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, ensuring that funding restrictions remain in place and are applied to all federal programs. Furthermore, this bill takes important steps to eliminate certain tax benefits related to abortions and improve disclosure requirements related to insurance coverage of abortion.

“Preventing our taxpayer dollars from paying for abortion procedures – a position that a majority of Americans agree with – should not be a complicated process vulnerable to partisan attack. Congress must take steps to ensure permanent protections apply government-wide.

“As such, I urge the Senate to consider the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Disclosure Act on the floor in order to protect not only our taxpayer dollars, but the innocent lives of our most vulnerable.

“Thank you.”