Each presidential administration has the opportunity to impact everyday Americans in significant ways by issuing executive orders, agency regulations, and administrative guidance through memoranda, letters, and other internal documents issued by the agencies and departments of the Executive Branch.
In the last eight years, the Obama administration enacted a great number of Executive Orders and agency actions that Many of these were extra-legal or illegal and it is critical that this lawlessness be undone.
Here are the top 20 ways that the Trump administration can address values issues in the first 100 days through administrative and agency actions in order to repair some of the damage that the Obama administration has inflicted on the dignity of life, natural marriage, and religious liberty and put our nation on the right track.
Action #1 — Restore The Mexico City Policy
The Obama administration rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which was first implemented by President Reagan, to prevent taxpayer dollars from funding international organizations that perform or promote abortion overseas. Millions of taxpayer dollars have funded abortion providers like International Planned Parenthood. One way to address the problem of funding abortion providers overseas is to rescind Obama’s Memorandum on the Mexico City Policy, issued January 23, 2009, and to restore President George W. Bush’s Memorandum Restoring the Mexico City Policy, issued on March 29, 2001.
Action #2 — Defund UNFPA
The Obama administration restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund which funds coercive abortion practices overseas, especially in China. Funding such entities violates current law prohibiting U.S. funds from involvement in coercive abortion practices. One way to fix this problem is to restore President George W. Bush’s State Department restriction on UNFPA funding first issued on July 24, 2002, and continued through fiscal year 2008.
Action #3 — Establish Transparency Regarding Obamacare’s Abortion Coverage
Americans should be informed about whether their Obamacare plans cover abortion or not, especially since even the abortion funding schemes in Obamacare require such notice and a “separate” payment for abortion in such plans. However, the Obama administration implemented rules issued on February 27, 2015 allowing insurers to hide the abortion surcharge in plans that cover abortion, and which are subsidized by federal premium credits. Moreover, the ACA requires multistate plans to provide one pro-life plan in each state. However, rules issued on February 24, 2015 implementing this requirement do not require pro-life plans until next year.
Another example of lawlessness is the Obama administration’s rule on October 2, 2013 which allowed federal employee subsidies for health plans with abortion coverage for Members of Congress and their staff, despite current law forbidding such subsidies.
Action #4 — Withdraw Title X Planned Parenthood Funding
The Obama administration proposed a rule on September 7, 2016 to block states from defunding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from Title X. This problematic rule would harm states that have chosen to prioritize family planning funds for health clinics and community health centers that seamlessly offer a full range of healthcare services including family planning, but do not participate in abortion. This problem could be fixed by simply withdrawing the proposed Title X regulation.
Action #5 — Defund Human-Animal Chimera Research
The Obama administration proposed a new NIH policy, issued on August 5, 2016, that would allow for NIH to fund human-animal chimera research. The proposed scope of funding would include research which attempts to give an animal (a chimp, pig, mouse, etc.) a substantially human brain or the ability to produce human sperm or egg cells, which can affect heredity. This serious violation of bioethics and common human decency could be fixed by simply withdrawing the proposed chimera funding policy.
Action #6 — Defund Embryonic Stem Cell Research
The Obama administration issued an executive order on March 9, 2009 that allowed funding for embryo-destructive stem cell research by narrowing the enforcement of the Dickey-Wicker amendment in federal law which prevents funding for research that harms or destroys human embryos. The administration rescinded human embryo protections in federal research put in place by President Bush, and implemented its embryo-destructive research policies on July 30,
2009 in NIH’s “Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research.” One way to address the Obama administration’s approval of embryo-destructive research funding is to restore President George W. Bush’s June 20, 2007 executive order protecting human embryos in federally funded research and by redirecting funding for ethical stem cell and regenerative research proving effective in the treatment of patients for numerous diseases.
Action #7 — Reform Federally Funded IVF Regulations
On April 3, 2012, the Obama administration’s DOD began funding IVF treatments for active military personnel but without sufficient protections for human embryos created in the process.
The FY17 Military, Constructions, Veterans Affairs appropriations law expanded this allowance to include veterans, and while it cross-referenced the Dickey-Wicker amendment which protects against funding embryo destruction under the Health and Human Services Department, it did not explicitly prevent against embryo destruction. One way to address the embryo protection issue in IVF treatments is to direct DOD and VA to only fund IVF fertility treatments in which human embryos are not knowingly destroyed, discarded, donated to research, or otherwise harmed prior to embryo transfer.
Action #8 — Establish Ethical Tissue Research
The Obama administration’s DOJ has refused to investigate potential violations of federal fetal tissue laws and federal medical privacy laws by abortion providers and tissue procurement companies. A way to address this issue is for DOJ to investigate potential violations of the law revealed in shocking undercover videos and in the work of the House Energy and Commerce’s Select Panel on Infant Lives by abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and by human tissue procurement companies like Stem Express for: (a) selling fetal tissue for profit; (b) changing abortion methods without consent for tissue procurement; (c) violating HIPPA privacy protections for women in their obtaining and selling of fetal tissue; (d) procuring fraudulent IRB certifications; and (e) potentially killing born-alive babies for the purpose of organ harvesting.
Another way to address this issue is to direct HHS/NIH to implement a moratorium on fetal tissue research in which the tissue was derived from aborted fetuses, while ethical alternatives are explored. In this regard, the administration should revise the “Policy and Procedures for Obtaining Human Fetal Tissue for Research Purposes in the Intramural Research Program at NIH,” which was issued on December 15, 2015, but last updated October 7, 2016, and should restore President George H.W. Bush’s May 19, 1992 rules establishing a fetal tissue bank obtained from ethical sources like ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.
Action #9 — Nullify The HHS Contraception Mandate
The Obama administration’s HHS contraceptive mandate that requires all employers to offer no-cost contraceptive drugs and devices is a troubling threat to conscience, especially since it involves coverage of some pills and procedures which can destroy human embryos. While the Supreme Court upheld the right of businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Inc. from the regulation, the Obama administration issued a regulation with an accounting gimmick for the non-profit “religious organizations” on July 2, 2013. This problem could be fixed by ending all litigation enforcing the HHS contraception mandate, issuing broad conscience exemptions from mandates requiring coverage of any health services or items that violate the beliefs of a religious organization, and revising the HRSA “Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines” to exclude the provision of drugs or devices which can destroy human embryos.
Action #10 — Restore Healthcare Conscience Protections
Among our first freedoms, enshrined in the First Amendment, is the right to freedom of religion and of conscience. The Obama administration has often undermined religious freedom by refusing to enforce conscience protections in existing federal law to address violations in California, New York, and other states. On June 21, 2016, HHS issued a letter which narrowly reinterpreted the Weldon Amendment to exclude instances in which, for instance, California churches are being forced by the state to cover elective abortion in their health care plans. On February 23, 2011, the Obama administration also issued regulations that repealed the Bush rules enforcing federal conscience protection laws. One way to address these conscience issues is by rescinding the 2016 HHS letter regarding the Weldon Amendment. Another action which could be taken is restoring President George Bush’s December 19, 2008 regulation, “Ensuring That Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law.”
Action #11 — Rescind Hospital Requirements Regarding Treatment of People Identifying as Transgender
On June 16, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed a rule under the auspices of promoting innovation, flexibility, and improvement in patient care, but which is expected to require federally regulated health care entities to violate their conscience. The rule will force hospitals and other providers to implement policies to provide medical services related to gender identity or sexual orientation.
Action #12 — Rescind Obama’s Title IX Bathroom Guidance
The Obama administration’s Department of Education issued guidance to redefine sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity for schools, which is currently being litigated. This guidance would force schools to allow boys into the shower rooms and bathrooms with girls and vice versa. It is possible for the new administration to rescind the May 13, 2016, “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” and the May 2016 “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students,” and to rescind parts of the April 29, 2014 “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” and parts of the April 2015 “Title IX Resource Guide.”
Action #13 — Take Down the Title IX Waiver List
In accordance with the Obama administration’s hostility toward religion, and in response to requests from the Human Rights Campaign, the Department of Education issued a black list of religious institutions of higher education that requested waivers from Title IX requirements, as well as, in some cases, their applications and the Department’s responses. This list, linked from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “Religious Exemption” page, should not be subject to public search and should be taken down.
Action #14 — Rescind Regulations Redefining Sex to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The Obama administration also issued regulations redefining sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity for multiple agencies. These redefinitions have far-reaching implications for homeless shelters that received funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, renters of facilities managed by the General Services Administration, medical care providers, and private employers.
For example, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the May 18, 2016, “Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities,” that defined “on the basis of sex” in Section 1557 of the Obamacare law to include “termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom” and “gender identity.” The rule states that it is discriminatory for a covered entity to deny or limit coverage “or impose additional cost sharing or other limitations or restrictions on coverage, for any health services that are ordinarily or exclusively available to individuals of one sex, to a transgender individual.” It also prohibits covered entities from categorically excluding gender transitions from coverage, and from denying or limiting coverage or imposing additional costs for specific health services related to gender transition if such denial, limitation, or restriction results in discrimination against a transgender individual.
Similarly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a resource guide addressing sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, in June of 2015, which prohibits private employers from taking sexual orientation and gender identity into consideration in the hiring and termination of employees. All of these regulations should be rescinded.
Action #15 — Address Regulations Regarding Military Service of People Identifying as Transgender
The Obama administration decided to change the long-standing regulatory policy excluding persons who identify as transgender to serve in the military. In conjunction with that decision, the Department of Defense issued a number of regulations that undermine troop readiness, recruitment, and retention. Examples of regulations that should be addressed include the June 30, 2016 “In-Service Transition for Transgender Service Members,” the July 29, 2016 “Guidance for Treatment of Gender Dysphoria for Active and Reserve Component Service Members,” and the September 30, 2016 handbook on transgender service in the U.S. Military.
Action #16 — Defend the Freedom to Believe in Natural Marriage
The administration should issue an executive order protecting federal employees and contractors from discrimination by the executive branch on the basis of their view that marriage is between a man and a woman. In the wake of the Obergefell ruling redefining “marriage,” agency actions have put pressure on those who continue to support the stance President Obama had prior to 2013 that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Action #17 — Rescind Common Core Requirements
The administration should rescind, in part, the letter regarding ESEA Flexibility, issued September 22, 2011, that allows for states to receive an exemption from key standards of No Child Left Behind. The letter added ambiguous requirements for states to receive a waiver, and used this waiver authority to allow the Department of Education to pressure states over educational standards related to curricula, such as with Common Core.
Action #18 — Strengthen DOD Religious Freedom Protection
The Obama administration issued regulations (AFI 1-1, SECNAVINST 1730.8B, and AR 600- 20) that limited the standards articulated in Section 532 and 533 of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act to protect expressions of belief reflecting conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs. The strict scrutiny standard of religious liberty protection concerning the least restrictive means as articulated in DOD Instruction 1300.17 should also be included in the Air Force directive. In addition, this directive should require the Air Force to remove Section 2.12 from AFI 1-1.
The new Congress and administration should also pressure the service chiefs to promulgate messages reaffirming the robust religious freedom and free speech rights of chaplains. These messages should include the articulation of such protections in Section 533 of the FY2013 and Section 532 of the FY2014 NDAA, and should note chaplains’ speech is not limited in the same manner that other government employee speech may be limited.
Action #19 — Adhere to the International Religious Freedom Act
The Obama administration was woefully resistant to protecting religious freedom in its foreign policy stance, and was late to describe the persecution of certain religious minorities as genocide. The new administration and Congress should promote religious freedoms throughout the federal government engaged in overseas activities by calling attention to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-292, as amended by Public Law 106-55, Public Law 106-113, Public Law 107-228, Public Law 108-332, Public Law 108-458, Public Law 112-75, Public Law 113-271, and Public Law 114-71), and ensuring these laws are followed.
Action #20 — Increase American Influence on Religious Freedom Abuses Abroad
The new administration and Congress should seriously consider maintaining a list of prisoners persecuted abroad on account of their faith, and also identify foreign officials responsible for religious freedom abuses (and where appropriate, publish their names in the Federal Register). In addition, the government should compile a list of opportunities to condition visa grants and other actions based on their support of religious freedom.