Americans were outraged when president Obama's executive order opened the border to a flood of child migrants into the United States. Now the administration is enacting new rules that will exclude the very faith-based groups caring for most of these children in a foolhardy attempt to impose abortion politics upon humanitarians and the children they serve.

On Christmas Eve the Health and Human Services Department issued an ultimatum to faith-based organizations: either provide the morning after pill for "unaccompanied minors" and refer them for abortions or be disqualified for grants that help these children.


Both the ends and the means of the new rules are wrong-headed.  

First the means. The administration fast-tracked the rules, saying it would be “contrary to the public interest” to wait “until a public notice and comment process is complete.” It posted the Implementation of the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 on an official website in the midst of the holidays and Congressional recess. Intended or not, the timing minimized public awareness and pushback.  

The period for comment ended Feb. 23. Many faith-based groups were caught unawares. Congressional staff said they were taken by surprise. The rules state there was no need for Congressional review, no issue with federalism, and no impact on the "erosion of family stability" or "rights of parents in the education, nurture, and supervision of their children."  Given the highly-charged debate over federal funding of contraception through Obamacare, these assertions are far-fetched.  

Now for the ends. Ostensibly, the rules are to prevent and respond to the scandal of sexual assault and sexual harassment of unaccompanied children. Yet providing potentially abortifacient "emergency contraception" and "all other legally permissible services" – which HHS has confirmed includes abortion – is not in the best interests of the child. Rather than ending impunity for perpetrators or preventing repetition, it may do the opposite.

The rules ignore the protective role of parents and family on matters often informed by deeply held beliefs. This could breed more distrust of government programs. Finally, taxpayers should not be required to pay for these controversial services for immigrant children.  

Five major U.S. faith-based groups pointed out in a letter to HHS that the rules do not comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Act mandates accommodations for both religious and moral objections to certain services such as contraception and abortion.

This isn't the first time the administration has put abortion politics ahead of children in need. In 2011, the Obama administration refused to renew a long-standing grant to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops program on human trafficking – the highest rated candidate for the grant – for not providing abortions.

If the stealthy new rules are any indication, the next round fired at the faithful will be gutting the Helms Amendment. This 42-year old law protects taxpayers from paying for abortion around the world – and safeguards foreign countries from Americans imposing it on them – by prohibiting U.S. foreign aid from funding or promoting abortion. Anti-Helms activists and liberal European governments in their sway have claimed that the amendment violates the Geneva Conventions.

But such legal overreach would fail serious scrutiny. That is, if the scheme were ever brought to American public attention.  

Even so, the Obama administration has put faith-based groups on notice that it intends to change the law by fiat, exploiting the tragedy of wartime sexual violence as its justification. With no apparent interest in consulting Congress before effectively rewriting the law, it appears to be a thinly-veiled ruse to bait Congressional Republicans and presidential candidates to oppose the fait accompli in the upcoming election season, perhaps to revive the moribund "war on women."

This politicized executive legislation curtails assistance to the very women and children it purports to help. Americans depend upon faith-based groups to provide for the poor and needy here at home and around the world.  Without the good works of religious organizations most of these women and children simply won't get help. By hamstringing faith-based groups, the administration is launching its own war on women and children.

Yoshihara, Ph.D., is senior vice president and research director at the Center for Family  and Human Rights (C-Fam) and author of Waging War to Make Peace, U.S. Intervention in Global Conflicts.