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Forward momentum

Forward momentum

People sing and pray outside a Planned Parenthood center on Sept. 23 in Jackson, Mich. (Nick Gonzales/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP)

WASHINGTON—Following Republican losses in 2012, the Republican National Committee urged the party’s future candidates to put less emphasis on social issues. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, went so far as to call for a truce on abortion.

Three years later, that thinking felt like a distant memory. Yes, 2015 started with a thud when a handful of U.S. House Republicans derailed a vote on a 20-week abortion ban scheduled to coincide with the March for Life, but pro-life semi-victories soon came: The House passed another, stronger bill protecting unborn children who make it to 20 weeks, passed a ban on federal abortion funding, and passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

None of the bills became law, but they framed the debate and illustrated how ideologically rigid the Democratic Party has become on abortion. In May, only four out of 188 House Democrats voted for the 20-week protection line, even as a spate of polling shows Americans support it by a 2-to-1 margin. Four months later, only five Democrats voted for the abortion survivors bill, which would have made it a criminal offense to fail to provide care for a baby born alive after a botched abortion. Meanwhile, undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood’s role in fetal tissue transactions led to defund efforts in six states, investigations in seven states, and creation of a special congressional committee to investigate fetal tissue procurement.

In September the House passed a bill to reallocate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding to community health centers that don’t provide abortions, but Democrats blocked a similar measure in the Senate. Republicans later used a rare budget maneuver called reconciliation to send a Planned Parenthood defund measure to President Barack Obama’s desk this month—setting an important precedent. 

The House committee investigation and two major Supreme Court cases will help drive the pro-life conversation during the 2016 election season. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, says, “The pro-life movement has tremendous momentum going into 2016.”

States in motion

  • Operation Rescue reports 54 abortion centers either closed or stopped providing abortions in 2015, leaving only 730 in business across the 50 states—down from 2,176 in 1991.
  • State lawmakers introduced almost 400 pieces of pro-life legislation in 2015: Lawmakers passed 47 such pro-life measures, according to a Center for Reproductive Rights tally.
  • Wisconsin and West Virginia in 2015 approved life protection for babies after 20 weeks of gestation, joining 25 other states that have similar laws—but three states are stuck in legal limbo due to court challenges.