Republican Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at protecting pro-life pregnancy centers against a surge in violent attacks.
“Despite dire threats and horrific attacks, the selfless volunteers and medical professionals who serve at these pregnancy care centers continue to heroically provide life-affirming medical care and crucial material support to pregnant women in need,” Smith told CNA. “We must ensure that those who work at these centers and the women who rely on them for support are safe from violent extremists who seek to inflict harm and terror.”
The Protect Pregnancy Care Centers Act of 2022 already has 28 co-sponsors and boasts the support of national pro-life organizations, including SBA Pro-Life America, the March for Life, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bill, among other things, would require the Biden administration to publicly report its handling of the investigation and prosecution of those engaging in “domestic violent extremism” against pregnancy centers.
“Now more than ever, we need to ensure the safety and security of the estimated 3,000 pregnancy care centers that provide life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” Smith said in a press release.
McMorris Rodgers added, “My goal is to foster an environment where no woman feels like their only option is abortion.”
The new legislation responds to a growing number of pro-abortion attacks targeting churches and pro-life pregnancy centers in the United States surrounding the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision leaves abortion up to the states.
The Smith-McMorris Rodgers bill lists and condemns the dozens of “terror attacks.”
“Pregnancy care centers across the country have suffered a surge of violent attacks, firebombing, and vandalism by pro-abortion activists in a coordinated effort to intimidate front-line volunteers and licensed medical professionals providing critical support to mothers in need and their unborn baby boys and girls,” Smith said.
McMorris Rodgers cautioned that the attacks “only endanger and intimidate the women who depend on them for critical medical care, education, and other resources.”
“I believe all extreme and hateful acts of violence should be condemned, which is why I’m helping lead this legislation to hold President Biden accountable for his failure to respond to this threat with the urgency it deserves,” she added.
The bill would require the inspector generals of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to report information to Congress on the Biden administration’s response to the attacks, including information on groups that have claimed responsibility and the number of prosecutions initiated.
It would also require the administration to identify funding available to pregnancy centers for security measures and provide recommendations for the creation of additional grant programs.
In the press release, Smith said that these “crimes against innocent victims” violate 18 U.S. Code § 248, a law that he said requires the Biden administration to investigate and prosecute the individuals threatening, vandalizing, and damaging pregnancy centers. The law, titled the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and prohibits the destruction of reproductive health care facilities, including pro-life counseling centers.
“Our new bill takes President Biden to task for his dereliction of duty to protect these centers from domestic violent extremists and will help hold the Biden administration accountable for its obligation to prosecute those who are inflicting terror and destroying these vital resource centers,” he said.
These centers, Smith stressed, save lives.
According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of SBA Pro-Life America, roughly 828,130 unborn babies’ lives were saved over the course of five years because of pregnancy centers. CLI also reports that these centers offered services and material assistance amounting to more than $266 million in 2019 alone. These centers serve hundreds of thousands of women at little to no cost by offering everything from medical services, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and parenting classes to supplies such as diapers, baby food, and even a place to stay.
The White House press office did not respond with comment by time of publication.