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.