If the pro-life movement is to achieve its biggest policy victories to date, it must have a supporter in the White House after the 2016 election, one pro-life advocacy group has insisted.
“The stakes are very high,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA in an interview about the 2016 election.
Two landmark pieces of pro-life legislation have made recent gains in Congress, but the White House had announced its intent to veto them. Passage of this legislation is what is at stake in the 2016 election, Dannenfelser maintained.
If both the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — a ban on most abortions after five months of pregnancy passed by the House — and the defunding of the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood, approved by both houses of Congress, became law, it “would truly be groundbreaking,” she added.
In the wake of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that decided a woman’s legal right to have an abortion, it would be the pro-life movement’s biggest policy victory, Dannenfelser claimed.
And there is a consensus around the pain-capable bill, she added, with many Democrats and Independents joining Republicans in support of it. Multiple polls have showed a majority of Americans in favor of restrictions on legal abortion after 20 weeks.
The U.S. is one of only seven countries that permit abortion past 20 weeks of gestation, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. The others are the People's Republic of China, North Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Singapore, and The Netherlands.
Susan B. Anthony List is also working to help pro-life candidates for office articulate a positive and effective pro-life message. In particular, candidates must be prepared to address investigative videos released over the summer showing Planned Parenthood’s role in offering body parts of aborted babies to tissue harvesting companies for compensation.
Planned Parenthood doctors were shown on the undercover videos to be casually discussing the graphic dismemberment of babies who were aborted at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Amid the ensuing outrage, two congressional committees launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s activities. Both the House and Senate eventually voted to strip the organization of federal funding, which largely consists of Medicaid payments and health grants.
After a Nov. 27 shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three, Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm blamed rhetoric from pro-life groups for inciting violence, saying that “acts of domestic terrorism do not exist in a vacuum.” The suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, admitted his guilt at a hearing and declared, "I am a warrior for the babies." Pro-life groups such as the Center for Medical Progress — which produced the investigative videos — Susan B. Anthony List, and Students for Life had all quickly condemned the shooting.
Dannenfelser maintained that there is no connection between the pro-life movement’s “very affirming and loving approach” and “a mentally-imbalanced person that decides to use the name of the pro-life movement.”
Ultimately, pro-life candidates cannot be defensive when talking about the Planned Parenthood videos, she said.
“There is a horror that’s occurring, that most human beings are responding to appropriately,” she said.
“I don’t accept this premise that our quote rhetoric is somehow motivating bad actors. We have a very affirming and loving approach — the pro-life movement does,” she continued.
And the group is helping candidates advance a positive pro-life vision, she said.
“If there is a limit on abortion at five months,” she explained, “part of the vision in advancing that is explaining what the alternative is to aborting that child,” she said, which would include actions such as promoting crisis pregnancy centers.
“We always have to cast a positive vision of what we want,” she said. “There is clearly evil that we want to eliminate. There is a good that we want to advance.”