The fight for life in 2017
Abortion | New federal policies favoring unborn babies helped offset court losses over state-level legislation
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 12/26/17, 02:38 pm
The pro-life movement saw both strides and setbacks this year, but advocates for the unborn remain hopeful for more progress in 2018.
A friend in the White House
The year kicked off with President Donald Trump reinstating a Reagan-era rule barring U.S. aid to overseas abortion providers. Under the Mexico City Policy, groups receiving U.S. aid must agree not to perform abortions. Trump’s order expanded the policy to cover every U.S. government department and agency, rather than just the U.S. Agency for International Development. Pro-abortion leaders around the world jumped at what they saw as an opportunity to fill the gap, with Canada and Denmark and other Nordic nations pledging money to international abortion providers such as Marie Stopes International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Trump also cut funding in May to the United Nations Population Fund, citing the agency’s involvement with forced abortion and sterilization in China. In June, the president again expanded the Mexico City Policy to all foreign non-governmental organizations rather than just family planning giants. The rule, called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” applies to about $8.8 billion in U.S. aid.
The Trump administration closed out the year by defending a policy protecting the unborn babies of illegal immigrants. A 17-year-old girl identified only as “Jane Doe” asked government workers at the detention facility where she was housed to transport her to an abortion center. When they refused, she sued with the help of attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union. Courts sided with the teen, who obtained an abortion before government lawyers could appeal. Last week, another federal judge granted permission for two more pregnant teens in immigration custody to abort their babies. The Trump administration has appealed that ruling.
State-level, pro-life legislation
Pro-life state lawmakers flooded their legislatures this year with bills aimed at protecting the unborn. Many of the bills became law, although some faced immediate legal challenges from pro-abortion groups.
Kentucky banned abortions after 20 weeks gestation and passed a requirement that abortionists show women an ultrasound of their babies before they had an abortion. Wyoming adopted a similar ultrasound law and made fetal tissue transfer or sale a felony. Utah now requires abortionists to inform women of the ability to halt a chemically induced abortion. Tennessee banned abortions on viable babies past 20 weeks gestation. And Missouri now allows state employees to opt out of healthcare plans that cover abortion and contraception. Just before Christmas, the Ohio legislature passed a bill and Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law a ban on abortions due to a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Sadly, a handful of states passed pro-abortion laws, including Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, and Illinois. Pro-life groups are currently fighting the Illinois and Hawaii laws in court. Meanwhile, pro-life laws in Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas face ongoing litigation, while judges have overturned or temporarily halted pro-life laws in Indiana, Iowa, and Alabama.
Euthanasia advances globally
While euthanasia has become more common in some parts of the world, attempts to legalize it in the United States have largely faltered. The American College of Physicians published a statement this year against physician-assisted suicide, and every one of the 43 bills filed in states across the country to legalize euthanasia failed to pass. But the assisted-suicide rate rose in Washington state, and doctors doled out death for 504 Californians in the first year they could do so legally.
Meanwhile, doctors have been helping people commit suicide in ever-growing numbers in Canada, where pediatricians have even recommended legalizing euthanasia for children and babies. Organ harvesting is now linked with euthanasia in Canada. In the Netherlands, doctors have euthanized hundreds of patients without a request. In Belgium, the Brothers of Charity Catholic order began allowing euthanasia of mentally ill patients at its psychiatric hospitals, prompting a Vatican investigation. Rome commanded them to comply with Church beliefs, but the order refused. The Australian state of Victoria passed a bill legalizing euthanasia for terminally ill adults, bucking the nation’s 20-year-old federal ban on the practice. Another Australian state, New South Wales, narrowly voted down a similar euthanasia bill.
U.S. abortion rate continues to drop
The overall abortion rate continued its downward trajectory since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, according to the latest figures reported early this year. But chemically induced abortions are accounting for an ever-larger number of pregnancy terminations. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute report the lowest rate and number of abortions in decades. According to Guttmacher, chemically induced abortions account for close to half of all terminations of pregnancies, up significantly from the previous year.
Chemically induced abortions, which are cheaper than surgical abortions, continue to rise in popularity around the world. This year, Canada loosened its restrictions on the drugs, Scotland legalized their use at home, and the ACLU filed suit in the United States to make them available at pharmacies.
Saying goodbye to Charlie Gard
The best efforts of British parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates to procure an experimental treatment for their baby son were no match for the power a London hospital wielded over the child’s life.
Charlie Gard suffered from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic condition that took away his ability to move, see, and hear. Doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital insisted Charlie should be removed from life support, but his parents fought for the right to transfer him out of the country to a hospital willing to treat him. They took their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, the continent’s highest authority, and lost. When England’s high court finally agreed on appeal to allow Charlie’s transfer, the U.S. doctor willing to treat him said Charlie’s condition had deteriorated too much for any benefit. Gard and Yates eventually agreed to allow doctors to remove their 11-month-old baby’s life support. Charlie died in hospice soon after.
The high-profile case sparked international outrage, and renewed the debate about who should have authority over medical decisions for minors: parents or medical professionals. It also sparked fears for other parents in similar situations.
Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.