By Dennis Sadowski
(CNS) — President-elect Donald Trump’s commitments to nominate pro-life
justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and support legislative efforts to limit
abortion are invigorating abortion foes.
in organizations such as U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities; National
Right to Life, Americans United for Life and Susan B. Anthony List told
Catholic News Service that they are hopeful that Congress and eventually the Supreme
Court, with pro-life justices in place, will take steps to achieve the
long-standing goal of ending abortion altogether.
are very excited about the new Trump administration because he took such a
strong stand during the campaign,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
“I think it’s going to be a great few years.”
enthusiasm stems not just from Trump’s unexpected election, but also because
Republicans maintained control of both the House of Representatives (241-194) and
the Senate (52-48), although with slimmer margins. As a result, the fear of a
veto of pro-life legislation has virtually vanished.
also are pleased that Trump has not indicated any deviance from a campaign
pledge he delivered to a coalition of groups opposed to abortion. In a September
letter to pro-life leaders, Trump said he was committed to four cornerstones of
the pro-life movement:
— Nominate pro-life justices to
the Supreme Court.
Sign into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would
prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, about the time doctors have determined
that an unborn child can feel pain.
End federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion
provider, as long as the agency continues to offer abortion services.
Making permanent the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits tax dollars from paying
for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life. Currently, the Hyde Amendment, which covers programs administered
by the Department of Health and Human Services, must be renewed annually by
Congress in its appropriations bill.
Greg Schleppenbach, associate
director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, welcomed the commitments, but said he would maintain a “cautious
optimism” that they would be carried out.
based upon things President-elect Trump said he will do, there’s some reason
for optimism. It remains to be seen if he follows through on what he said he
would do,” Schleppenbach said.
making the Hyde Amendment permanent would be welcomed, Schleppenbach said, passing
the No Taxpayer Funding for
Abortion Act would ensure no federal money whatsoever is used for
abortion, including under the Affordable Care Act. The bill has been introduced
in the past three Congresses and passed by the House each time, but has stalled
in the Senate.
advocates in the pro-life movement have mobilized quickly to ensure that
pro-life bills will be considered by the new sessions of Congress and state
will see (a) pain capable (bill) advance. It passed the House previously and it
was voted on in the Senate,” said Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at the pro-life
Susan B. Anthony List.
called the current period hopeful for pro-lifers. “It’s a time when we
have to give all we have to advance the cause for life at a time when the
country rejected Hillary Clinton and her party’s extreme position on
life,” she said.
with expected action by Congress, the advocates said they feel emboldened to
take steps to pass key pieces of legislation, including the so-called
“pain capable” bills at the state level. Ohio serves as an example of
what’s ahead. Republican legislators inserted a pain-capable bill in
end-of-year-legislation in December. It was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich
Thirteen states have enacted pain
capable laws that have gone unchallenged, although similar bans have been
struck down by courts in Arizona and Idaho.
second bill in Ohio adopted by the Legislature in December would have banned
abortion when a fetal heartbeat could be detected, usually around six weeks of
a pregnancy. It would have been the country’s most restrictive abortion law.
Kasich vetoed that provision at the urging of Ohio Right to Life; both the governor and the pro-life group have said they did
not believe it would have been upheld in court and he acted to save taxpayer
dollars. Similar bans elsewhere have been overturned in the courts. Ohio Right to Life leaders pointed out if the heartbeat measure became law and was challenged in court, a federal judge could strike it down along with abortion restrictions.
groups are divided on the strategy of pursuing fetal heartbeat laws. While some
groups want to see bills introduced, others believe federal courts would
overturn them and harm the overall pro-life movement by contributing additional
legal precedence in support of abortion.
that issue though, voters can expect to see other abortion-related bills come
before state legislatures, Tobias said. In one area, National Right to Life is
working with other organizations on state bans of dilation and evacuation
abortion procedure — which pro-life advocates describe as “dismemberment” — that is
commonly used during the second trimester of pregnancy.
that offer conscientious protections for health care workers also are expected
to be reintroduced.
legislative victories are expected — and expected quickly — Clark Forsythe, acting president of
Americans United for Life, suggested patience would be a virtue for
pro-life advocates to embrace.
have to look at it as four consequential years,” he explained.
“People have to understand the Senate is still going to be difficult with
52-48 splits. People have to understand that Senate Democrats are going to want
Supreme Court vacancy is going to be a hard fight. People have to have patience
and look at it as this two-year Congress and then the opportunity to add to the
Senate majority in the 2018 mid-term elections and then two more years of the
Trump-Pence administration’s first term,” he said.
Supporters of keeping abortion legal are concerned about what they consider to
be attacks on a women’s right to choose the care she receives. Planned
Parenthood chapters in many states have begun fundraising efforts to close the
gap should federal funding of its programs end.
organization’s federal funding comes primarily through Medicaid and Title X, which provides family planning and related preventive
organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have said they will
fill lawsuits to prevent what they consider to be excessive restrictions on
abortion from taking effect.
with things expected to go their way in the White House, Congress and state
legislatures, pro-life advocates recognize that parishioners and other churchgoers who oppose abortion will have to remain vigilant because of the strong push back expected from the supporters
of keeping abortion legal.
Unity in messaging will be the key said the USCCB’s
forming and preparing our grass roots, which is really, as the church, our
grass roots is our biggest strength as a lobbying force,” he explained.
“So we will certainly make sure that we have our grass roots informed and
energized and ready to act and to communicate with our representatives.”
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Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.
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