Senator Jim DeMint tangled with Barack Obama’s choice for Deputy Secretary of State yesterday over the revocation of the Mexico City policy, and left the new administration with a bruise on its constitutional competency. When DeMint challenged James Steinberg on Obama’s decision to fund international organizations that provide or advise for abortions, Steinberg said that it was a matter of freedom of speech:
Question from Senator DeMint: For more than 30 years the Hyde amendments, which prohibit federal funding for abortion services, have been supported by Republican and Democrat administrations and Congresses. Unfortunately, while this is the domestic policy of the United States, President Obama has vowed to reverse our foreign policy by repealing the Mexico City policy and use the federal taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services overseas. Do you support President Obama’s efforts to lift the Mexico City restrictions? Do you believe our foreign policy should contradict long held domestic policies?
Answer from James Steinberg: President Obama has supported repeal of the Mexico City policy, as has Secretary Clinton. Longstanding law, authored by Senator Jesse Helms, expressly prohibits the use of U.S. funds of abortion. The Mexico City policy is an unnecessary restriction that, if applied to organizations based in this country, would be an unconstitutional limitation on free speech.
Steinberg engages in some lazy thinking in this response. The Constitution also guarantees the right to gun ownership. Does that mean that a failure to subsidize gun purchases amounts to an infringement on our constitutional rights? Of course not — and that’s an actual, enumerated right, not an emanation from a penumbra.
Besides, as DeMint points out, the Supreme Court has already settled this specific issue on free-speech grounds:
Steinberg’s opinion is in direct contradiction to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already definitively decided the matter in Rust v. Sullivan in 1991. The court’s majority opinion concluded: “The Government has no constitutional duty to subsidize an activity merely because it is constitutionally protected, and may validly choose to allocate public funds for medical services relating to childbirth but not to abortion.”
In other words, not all that is allowed becomes compulsory for the government to provide. I have a right to free speech, but not the right to have the government confiscate air time on CBS for my use. That’s an important point when discussing abortion and policies of government subsidies to its practitioners. The government can choose to fund it, but they’re not required to do so. Steinberg’s explanation attempts to evade responsibility by the Obama administration for their choice to fund abortions abroad, and we can expect the same kind of evasion when they try to void the Hyde Amendment, either through the Freedom of Choice Act or some intermediary step, in order to fund abortions within the US.
Either Steinberg has some competence issues or honesty issues. There isn’t a third option.