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Wish list come true?

Pro-life groups look to cash in on loyalty to Donald Trump

Wish list come true?

Pro-life activist, Nora, 6, of Harrisonburg, Va., demonstrates with her family and friends on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

ONE OF THE DEFINING MOMENTS in last year’s presidential debates came moments into the final showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace steered an exchange about the Supreme Court to the issue of abortion: “Secretary Clinton, I want to explore how far you believe the right to abortion goes. You’ve been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights.”

After Clinton struggled to identify any limit she would put on abortion and defended her Senate vote against a late-term ban, Trump didn’t hesitate to translate her political answer into explicit terms.

“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother,” Trump said in a sober tone. “You can say that’s OK, and Hillary can say that’s OK, but it’s not OK with me. … That’s not acceptable.”

It was a turning point for Trump, who won over some socially conservative voters and solidified others who had misgivings about his candidacy. Pro-life groups called Trump’s remarks an unprecedented moment in modern American politics—a moment that at once vindicated them and illustrated why they had backed Trump for president.

Although many segments of Trump supporters waffled during the ups and downs of his tumultuous ride to the White House, almost without exception, pro-life groups never did. They’re now set to launch an ambitious list of agenda items they think have a realistic chance to cross the finish line in the Trump era.

“We are poised to make the biggest executive, legislative, and judicial advances for the protection of unborn children and their mothers since Roe v. Wade was decided,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List.

SBA List said it talked to more than 1.6 million voters in the battleground states of North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida—including 1.1 million voters at their homes. Dannenfelser said it was enough to cover the margin of victory in some states: “The power of the pro-life grassroots was a huge factor in making possible a pro-life White House and Senate.”

Senate Democrats will make it difficult to pass stand-alone pro-life legislation, since Republicans have only 52 seats and it takes 60 to bring legislation to the floor for a vote. Still, expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to make red state Democrats take some difficult votes over the next two years. Of the 33 seats up for reelection in 2018, Democrats will defend 10 in states Trump won.

While other legislation is possible, pro-life groups have outlined four priorities for 2017: a 20-week abortion ban, codifying a ban on taxpayer funded abortions (the Hyde Amendment), reallocating Planned Parenthood funding, and ensuring pro-life justices gain appointments to the Supreme Court. Trump pledged support to all four agenda items in a September letter announcing his pro-life coalition.

Supreme Court

The nomination of a pro-life judge could be the first pro-life victory of the Trump presidency, although confirmation would take some time. In mid-December incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said to expect Trump to name a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia around the time of the inauguration (Jan. 20). 

Trump released a list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees during the campaign and vowed to make any nominations from that list. He was busy filling out his administration through the end of December; but as he turns his attention to the court in January, the conservative legal community expects two names to rise to the top: Alabama’s William H. Pryor Jr., a judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Wisconsin’s Diane Sykes, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cliff Owen/AP

William H. Pryor Jr. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Diane Sykes (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Matt Bowman, who has led legal battles against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate and defended free speech rights of pregnancy care centers, said the strength of Trump’s list is encouraging. He’s optimistic about the coming legal climate: “We now have opportunities, because of the election, to advance freedom, instead of merely doing the necessary work of defending it from constant attack.”

Planned Parenthood

On the legislative front, Republicans will likely first target Planned Parent-hood. The nation’s largest abortion provider endorsed Clinton, but also faced turmoil after a string of damaging 2015 undercover videos led to a congressional investigation into the fetal tissue industry, more than a dozen criminal referrals, and defunding efforts in numerous states. When Clinton lost, Planned Parenthood began preparing to lose almost half a billion dollars in federal funding—more than 40 percent of the organization’s budget.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Protesters hold signs opposing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood on Capitol Hill. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In 2015, Congress passed a measure to reallocate Planned Parenthood funding to federally qualified health centers that don’t perform abortions, but President Barack Obama vetoed the measure. In December Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., a registered nurse, told The Washington Post she plans to make similar legislation one of the first orders of business in the new Congress. 

The Republican-controlled House and Senate managed to get the funding reallocation measure to Obama’s desk using a budget maneuver called reconciliation—the same tool they will likely use to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The process only requires 51 votes in the Senate, and since Obamacare is a top priority, defunding Planned Parenthood could catch a ride to passage early in the new Congress.

Hyde Amendment

Congress has prohibited taxpayer funding for abortion since 1976, when it approved an amendment that has since saved an estimated 1.1 million lives. Members of both parties have voted for the Hyde Amendment in must-pass spending bills for the last four decades; but amid growing calls from Democrats to do away with it, Republicans want to make it permanent.

The House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in January 2015, but it died in the Senate. Although another early effort in the new Congress is likely, it will take eight or more Democrats to bring such legislation to the floor for a stand-alone vote in the Senate.

Paul Sancya/AP

Sen. Manchin (Paul Sancya/AP)

Some endangered Democrats—including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (a state Trump won by 42 points) have indicated they will, when possible, cooperate with the new president’s agenda. This may be one of those areas, since polling indicates about 60 percent of Americans do not want taxpayer dollars paying for abortions.

Late-term abortion ban

A federal ban on abortions at 20 weeks fetal age is probably the toughest task on the pro-life agenda. The House passed the measure in 2013 and again in 2015, but months later Senate Democrats blocked it. Although three Democrats voted for it then, this time it would likely take nine to bring it to the floor for an up or down vote—a task that may take Trump’s best deal-making skills to accomplish.

For now, the United States remains one of seven countries in the world with no limits on late-term abortion, even though polls show Americans support a 20-week ban by a 2-to-1 margin. Pro-life groups are hoping the effort follows a path similar to the ban on partial-birth abortion: Former President Bill Clinton twice vetoed it before President George W. Bush later signed it into law.

States’ fights

Shortly after the presidential elections, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards sent a thank-you note to supporters. More than 200,000 people had donated to the abortion giant in the week after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Alex Brandon/AP

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and Hillary Clinton (Alex Brandon/AP)

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s communications director Kaylie Hanson Long reported “thousands” of donations in the 48 hours after the November elections and said “one woman even switched her wedding registry into donations for NARAL.”

“Want to ruin Mike Pence’s day?” tweeted NARAL Pro-Choice America in November. “Donate on his behalf to NARAL.”

Facing dire warnings about potential threats to their existence after Trump’s victory, pro-abortion groups enjoyed a wave of -donations, accelerated court fights against abortion restrictions, and pursued bills expanding abortion in Democratic-controlled states.

In December, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against bans on late-term abortions in North Carolina and Alaska. The groups also filed suit against abortion center health standards in Missouri, similar to the ones the Supreme Court struck down in Texas last year.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion center regulations, Republican states in 2016 passed a slate of laws limiting when and under what circumstances abortions are legal. Georgia, South Dakota, and South Carolina passed 20-week abortion bans.

Ohio legislators passed two separate bans: one on abortion after 20 weeks and another on abortion after doctors detect a heartbeat—around six weeks of gestation.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the 20-week ban but vetoed the heartbeat bill. Officials with Ohio Right to Life supported Kasich’s veto, saying the current Supreme Court likely would strike down the early ban on abortion and set a bad -precedent for future laws.

Democratic lawmakers in New York held a press conference in December to announce they would reintroduce a bill expanding the legality of late-term abortion, citing fears of Trump’s pro-life agenda. Democrats had abandoned the bill after it failed in the Senate several times over the last few years. Republicans hold the state’s Senate by a thread, and two recount efforts in Long Island could determine the future of the law. —Emily Belz

Laws unto themselves

After a series of harrowing videos exposed disturbing abortion-related practices at Planned Parenthood in 2015, the U.S. House passed a resolution creating the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. The purpose: probe Planned Parenthood and other organizations involved in the fetal tissue industry. 

The Republican majority submitted its final report in late December. Among the investigation’s findings: significant privacy violations of women who sought abortions; misleading consent forms that made false claims; middlemen businesses that make between 300 and 400 percent profits on the transfer of fetal tissue from abortion centers to research facilities; the -dissection of fetal brains at a University of New Mexico summer program; and websites that allowed customers to add baby organs such as brains, hearts, lungs, and livers to virtual shopping carts. 

The panel made more than a dozen referrals for criminal and regulatory violations, including a recommendation for the Texas Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast engaged in illegal activity. 

In separate but related action, the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted its own probe, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, referred findings about several Planned Parenthood affiliates to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI for investigation in connection with potentially illegal fetal tissue transfers. Grassley said decades of DOJ inattention allowed the entities to operate with “seeming disregard for the law.” —J.C.D.



J.C. Derrick

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD’s deputy chief content officer and WORLD Radio’s managing editor based in Dallas. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.


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  •  austinbeartux's picture
    Posted: Mon, 01/09/2017 09:03 am

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    Psalms 139:13

    I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.  Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.
    Jeremiah 1:5

  • Hawkdriver
    Posted: Mon, 01/09/2017 01:27 pm

    Amen to that.  We must, through the love of Christ in us, make abortion unthinkable to our nation and world.