President Obama is flanked by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), left, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.),  along with other dignitaries as he signs the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” the successor to No Child Left Behind. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It turns out that the country’s new K-12 education law, the successor to No Child Left Behind which President Obama signed on Thursday, includes language that prohibits school-based health centers from subsidizing abortions — but it has no real effect because the Public Health Service Act already includes such a ban.

The language is found in Section 8035. It says:


Section 399Z-1 of the Health Service Act says funds awarded for a grant under the section about school-based health centers “may not be used to provide abortions.” As a result, congressional sources said, the language in the Every Student Succeeds Act was not actually necessary to ensure that public funds would not be spent in such a manner.

Why is it in the law? The sources said that it was added as a way to appease hard-line conservatives who were wary of the bill because they believe it gives the federal government too much education policy-making power, even though it strips away a good deal of the power the federal government had under No Child Left Behind and sends authority back to the states and local districts.

The original House version of the Every Student Succeeds Act did not have any reference to abortion funding, but it was added before it went to the House floor, along with other provisions, such as one that would have prohibited personnel working in school-based student health centers from even recommending to students a full range of reproductive services.

Enter Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington state Democrat who was instrumental in compromising with Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, so that the Every Student Succeeds Act could become law. She supports women’s reproductive rights.

In the conference committee, when the final draft of the ESSA was crafted from House and Senate versions, a compromise was reached: a restatement of the Public Health Service Act provision banning abortions in school-based health centers would be included, but nothing else relating to women’s reproductive rights would, the congressional sources said.

Tom McClusky, president of the March for Life Action group, said in a news release that House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, “deserves high praise for taking this initiative.” The House education committee’s office did not answer a question about who put the measure into the bill.

School-based health clinics were not part of No Child Left Behind so it wasn’t in that law.

This isn’t the only non-education item in the Every Student Succeeds Act. There also is a posthumous pardon of John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, the first African American to hold the title of world heavyweight boxing champion. He was convicted on a racially based charge of immoral behavior. Why was it in the education bill? According to Education Week, lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have long sought a pardon of Johnson.

[The weirdest thing in the new K-12 education law]