By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 20, 2009 ( – Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt touched off a controversy last Thursday when he urged Congress not to fund abortions in D.C., pointing out that had such funding existed years ago it could have snuffed out the African-American luminaries of today before they were born. The children aborted in Washington, D.C., correlating to the city’s community of poor on a whole, are disproportionately African-American.

During his remarks the Kansas congressman called for an up-or-down vote in the House of Representatives on the abortion funding in the Financial Services Appropriations bill. The bill had adopted a suggestion by President Obama to eliminate a ban on federal funds for abortions in the city.

“If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that would be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that would encourage women who are single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion,” said Tiahrt.

“If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of?” Rep. Tiahrt asked. “Our president grew up in those similar circumstances. If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother may have taken advantage of it?”

He added: “Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court justice – if those circumstances were in place, is it possible that we would be denied his great mind?” Thomas was born in an impoverished African American community in Georgia.

Tiahrt’s argument drew upon the fact, supported by research from Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute, that abortion disproportionately targets African-American mothers and their children. Today, the abortion rate for black women is five times higher than the abortion rate for white women.

In a report released earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute also concluded that taxpayer funding for abortion leads to the death of approximately 33% more unborn children than if it were not publicly funded.

Tiahrt’s bid for a separate vote on the issue was denied, and despite stiff opposition from Washington pro-life leaders, the abortion funding was voted through in the House Thursday evening 219-208.

The comments immediately drew fire from liberal media, where the remarks were widely decried as divisive and disrespectful. The Kansas Democratic Party (KDP) launched an online petition the next day demanding Tiahrt to apologize.

“No matter where you stand on abortion, we can all agree this is a disgusting, divisive comment and deserves to be rebuked,” wrote Mike Nellis of the KDP on the Daily Kos blog Friday. “President Obama deserves better, the U.S. House of Representatives deserves betters, and the people of Kansas deserve better. It’s time that we demand it!”

KDP Executive Director Kenny Johnston said in an email to constituents that the comments “are proof that he is unfit to serve the people of Kansas as a U.S. Senator.”

Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty suggested to the Wichita Eagle that Tiahrt made a misstep in making personalized comments on the House floor. “The idea, not just in politics but in American culture, is you stay away from people’s mothers,” he said.

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, however, applauded Tiahrt for opposing the D.C. funding that would “further target vulnerable black women for abortions,” saying it is “racist at its core.”

“After 50 million abortions on all races, it is clear that we have been denied those who would have enriched us as a people,” Newman argued. “Have we aborted the one who would have had the intellect and inspiration to find a cure for cancer, or find ways new to feed the hungry?

“It is a legitimate question that needs to be asked, because the societal impact of abortion is deep and devastating, and affects us all. The last thing abortion promoters want is dialog on this subject.”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a staunch abortion supporter – caused a stir earlier this month when, in discussing her expectations for Roe v. Wade, she echoed the original eugenic aspirations of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

“Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of,” said Ginsburg in a New York Times interview published July 7.

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life Friday condemned Congress’ refusal to vote on the D.C. abortion funding.

“The House leadership knows that the public does not want to pay for abortions so they refuse to allow a separate vote on the question,” said Fr. Pavone. “Their pure political cowardice, however, will not shield supporters of the DC appropriations bill from pro-life scrutiny.”

Watch Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s remarks here.

See related coverage:

House Approves Publicly-Funded Abortions in D.C., Cans D.C. School-Vouchers

Study Finds Medicaid Coverage Increases Abortions

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg: I Thought Roe Would Help Eradicate Unwanted Populations Through Abortion