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National Right to Life Committee
Federal Legislation Department ([email protected])
August 14, 2009

Congressman Tim Ryan, Pro-Life Impersonator

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is currently playing a key role in assisting the pro-abortion lobby, and the White House, in resisting genuine pro-life amendments to the Obama-backed health care bills. You can find more information on this subject in these sources:

1. The August edition of National Right to Life News contains a detailed report on the ongoing fight in Congress, one section of which is devoted to Ryan's role in attempting to undercut the efforts of pro-life forces. The article quotes NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson as saying, "When Tim Ryan calls for 'common ground,' you know he has a memo from Planned Parenthood in his pocket."  To read the article in your web browser, click here.  To view or download the original article in the PDF format, click here here.

2. John McCormack, an editor at The Weekly Standard, posted a piece on Ryan on August 4 under the title, "A Pro-Lie Democrat?" Ryan comes off poorly in this piece, which is based in part on the public record of his recent activities on abortion-related issues, and partly on an interview Ryan gave to McCormack on July 31. (Sample: Asked by McCormack, "When do you believe life begins?," Ryan replied, "That answer's above my pay grade.")

3. He earned that hug: To view a photo taken at a July 23, 2009, press conference on Capitol Hill, showing Congressman Tim Ryan being hugged by pro-abortion Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.), the former executive director of the pro-abortion PAC called EMILY's List, click here. In the photo, Ryan is flanked by top officials from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fl.), who has voted pro-abortion without exception throughout his congressional career. The press conference was called to promote a so-called "common ground" bill introduced by Ryan and DeLauro and endorsed by a coalition of pro-abortion groups, including Third Way, which admits to having written the bill.

4. On August 7, the Youngstown Vindicator ran a long letter from Ryan under the headline, "U.S. Rep. Ryan clears air on his abortion stand, counters woman’s claims." In this letter, Ryan attempted to deflect criticisms by Kristin Day of Democrats for Life that had appeared in an earlier article. In response to Ryan's letter, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson submitted an op-ed length critique of Ryan's pro-life credentials. That letter was rejected by the editorial page editor as excessively long, but the editor did accept and publish a much shorter version of the letter here.  Johnson's full-length submission appears below. Please feel free to draw on it as you see fit in combating the ongoing efforts by the pro-abortion lobby, and its agent Tim Ryan, to advance its agenda under cover of the "common ground" smokescreen.


August 9, 2009

The August 7 issue of the Youngstown Vindicator published a long letter from Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Oh.) under the headline, "U.S. Rep. Ryan clears air on his abortion stand, counter's woman's claims." Regrettably, Ryan's letter was seriously misleading regarding the role that Ryan is playing on abortion-related policy issues in Washington.

I am the director for congressional relations for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), which is the federation of right-to-life organizations in all 50 states, including the Ohio Right to Life Society. I write here to correct some of Ryan's misleading statements.

In the letter, Ryan described himself as "a conscientious pro-life member of Congress. . ." who is working to "reduce the number of abortions in our nation." In reality, however, in recent years Ryan has emerged as a major congressional ally for the pro-abortion lobby, who exploits his self-characterization as "pro-life" for the purpose of undercutting the efforts of genuine pro-life lawmakers of both political parties. This is why Mike Gonidakis, executive director for Ohio Right to Life, said in a July 29 statement, "Tim Ryan has completely lost his way regarding the pro-life movement."

Early in his congressional career, Ryan voted pro-life more often than not. But on every single pro-life issue that has come to a vote in the House of Representatives during 2007, 2008, and 2009, Ryan has voted against the pro-life position.

Ryan was awarded a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee -- and he now uses that seat to undercut pro-life efforts. On July 7, 2009, the committee considered the question of whether to remove a longstanding ban on government funding of abortions in the District of Columbia. Because the District is a federal jurisdiction under the U.S. Constitution, the entire District budget is appropriated by Congress, including funds gathered by city agencies. For many years, Congress has attached a pro-life provision to the annual funding bill for the District to prevent government funding of elective abortions in the District. This year, the decisive vote came on a specific amendment, offered by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Ks.) and Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tn.), to continue this longstanding ban on government-funding of abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). All of the real pro-life members of the committee voted for the Tiahrt-Davis Amendment, but Ryan voted against the amendment, and it was narrowly defeated. Mr. Ryan, as it turns out, is "pro-choice" on the question of whether a federal jurisdiction should be allowed to pay for abortion on demand with funds appropriated by Congress.

Despite his increasingly abysmal voting record, Ryan continues to present himself to the media as a "pro-life" lawmaker -- in order to better advance policies that please his new friends at groups such as Planned Parenthood (which is the nation's major abortion provider). In short, Ryan has become a "front man" -- he continues to impersonate a pro-life lawmaker, but he does so for the purpose of undercutting the efforts of the real pro-life lawmakers of both parties.

It is exactly this destructive role that Ryan is now playing in the hot debate over how pending "health care reform" legislation should deal with elective abortion. President Obama, who has always opposed any limitations on government funding of abortion on demand, is backing health care bills under which the federal government would vastly expand access to elective abortion in various ways, including covering abortion in government-operated and government-subsidized health plans. Pro-life lawmakers of both parties, and pro-life organizations, are working hard to try to amend the bills to remove the pro-abortion elements, but Ryan has actively and energetically worked to undermine the pro-life efforts.

On July 21, with much fan-fare in the media, Ryan released a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who is solidly pro-abortion) calling for a "common ground solution" regarding the health care/abortion issue. Days later, in a House committee, the approach promoted by Ryan was offered in a House committee by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Ca.), a legislator who has voted on the pro-abortion side 74 times and never on the pro-life side. The Capps Amendment was narrowly adopted over the objections of the pro-life members of the committee. The Obama-backed bill will create a nationwide "public option" insurance plan. Under the Capps Amendment, which Ryan endorses, this government plan is explicitly authorized to pay for any and all abortions. Abortionists would send their bills to the federal agency and receive payment checks from the federal agency. Moreover, the bill creates a big new program of federal subsidies to help low-income families buy health insurance -- and the Capps-Ryan amendment explicitly authorizes these subsidies to flow to plans that cover elective abortions. The amendment contains phony bookkeeping requirements that do nothing more than provide a political smokescreen behind which this system of government-operated and government-subsidized abortion coverage would operate. In short, the "restrictions" in the amendment are as phony as Ryan's pro-life credentials.

The Capps-Ryan amendment has been condemned by pro-life groups. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that under the Capps-Ryan amendment, the public plan “must include abortions for any reason if the HHS Secretary (who supports publicly funded abortion) says so. This would be an enormous imposition on the working poor who may find the public plan to be the only one they can afford. Whether you call it federal funds or private premiums, they would be forced to pay for abortions they don't want and may find abhorrent.”

Congressman Bart Stupak (Mi.), the Democrat who co-chairs the House Pro-Life Caucus, branded the Capps-Ryan amendment a "phony compromise," and vowed to continue to fight for a real restriction on federal subsidies for abortion.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), also co-chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus, said of Ryan, "He has no right whatsoever to advertise himself as right-to-life." Regarding the Capps-Ryan amendment, Smith said, “It’s one of the most deceptive amendments I have ever seen. The bottom line is that money is fungible, and the plan itself will be subsidizing abortion-on-demand, with taxpayer funding commingled, and the numbers of abortions will go up significantly.”

Because Ryan nowadays does the bidding of the pro-abortion lobby, he was kicked off the advisory board of Democrats for Life. "It's no secret that Congressman Ryan is very politically ambitious . . . so maybe he's proactively abandoning his pro-life roots in hopes of sliding his hands into the deep pockets of the national pro-choice donor base," Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristin Day said in an interview published by The Weekly Standard on August 4. (When The Weekly Standard asked Ryan, "When do you believe life begins?," Ryan replied, "That answer's above my pay grade.")

Mr. Ryan, we expect you will keep working to please your new friends at Planned Parenthood, and that you will keep trying to torpedo the efforts of the real pro-life lawmakers. But at least have the honesty to stop flying false colors.

Further documentation on these matters is available on the NRLC website at

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee
Washington, D.C.

(5)  On August 14, 2009, the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator ran a news article about recent criticism of Ryan by NRLC and other pro-life groups.  The article (along with comments from readers) is here.

To go to the Abortion in Health Care index, click here.
To go to the NRLC Home page, click here.
To go to the NRLC Legislative Action Center, click here.