Pro-lifers await next Congress to score series of victories
Planned Parenthood sees ‘fight of our lives’
For six years, Rep. Diane Black has fought a losing battle against Planned Parenthood and its pro-choice allies in Congress, but the Tennessee Republican says that dynamic is about to shift.
Pro-life Republicans like Ms. Black are readying an ambitious agenda in anticipation of President-elect Donald Trump, who threw his support during the campaign behind key measures such as banning most abortions at 20 weeks and defunding Planned Parenthood as long as it performs abortions.
“Women deserve better than Planned Parenthood,” Ms. Black said in a statement Tuesday, “and I look forward to working with the Trump administration to stop the flow of your tax dollars to this abortion giant.”
That’s not all. Mr. Trump has also promised to appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court; make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which bans taxpayer funding for abortions; and reallocate funding from Planned Parenthood to
community health centers that provide the same services with the exception of abortions.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards warned in a Tuesday fundraising plea that pro-choice advocates can expect “the fight of our lives” in a world without President Obama.
“We’re just weeks away from a frightening, unprecedented moment,” said Ms. Richards. “The United States will inaugurate a new president with no experience in government, who was rejected by the majority of voters after running a campaign built on fear, division, and mistrust.
“We don’t know exactly what President Trump will do when he takes office,” she said, “but if we take him at his word, we can expect some of the worst threats to reproductive rights and health care we’ve ever faced.”
Miles ahead of the federal government are the states, where the growing ranks of pro-life Republican governors and legislatures have thrived during the Obama administration, offering a prelude to the anti-abortion agenda now likely to unfold on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday Ohio’s John Kasich became the latest Republican governor to sign a bill limiting abortions in most cases to 20 weeks, the age at which some studies have shown the fetus can feel pain, following 15 other states with “pain-capable” laws.
At the same time, he vetoed a measure that would have restricted abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The heartbeat can sometimes be detected as early as six weeks, leading Mr. Kasich to conclude that the state
would lose an inevitable legal challenge in federal court, thus entailing “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”
“Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life,” said Mr. Kasich in his veto message.
Abortion opponents have also learned from their defeats, as shown by the fight over ramping up oversight at abortion facilities.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a Texas law requiring a doctor with hospital admitting privileges to be on site during procedures at abortion clinics, saying the measure represented an “undue burden on women’s access to abortion.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which fought the Texas measure, called it the “most significant abortion-related ruling from the court in more than two decades.”
But abortion foes aren’t finished: Americans United for Life swung back Tuesday with a 135-page report called “Unsafe,” compiling 754 violations of health-and-safety laws at abortion clinics in 32 states since 2008.
The group’s analysis comes as a direct challenge to Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s assertion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2006) that “abortions taking place in an abortion facility are safe,” which AUL’s Denise Burke described Tuesday as “the lie of the year.”
“This report will equip legislators with evidence of the need for health safety standards, as well as support for calling for comprehensive clinic inspections in all 50 states,” said AUL’s acting president and legal counsel, Clark Forsythe.
Citing the Hellerstedt ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court moved Tuesday to overturn its nearly identical state law, signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in May
2014 but never implemented pending the lawsuit. Similar laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin have also been blocked.
No governor has been more active than Ms. Fallin: Since 2011 she has signed 19 pro-life bills, earning Oklahoma the top spot in Americans United for Life’s 2016 ranking of the states.
Nancy Northrop, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, applauded the court’s decision, blasting the law as a thinly veiled attempt to shut down clinics.
While her group has been overmatched in the legislature, she’s had better luck in the courts, citing eight successful lawsuits against Oklahoma’s abortion-related laws.
“We will continue to stand with Oklahoma women in beating back these relentless political schemes designed to make the right to safe, legal abortion a right that only exists on paper,” Ms. Northrop said.
The sting from Tuesday’s setback at the Oklahoma Supreme Court didn’t last long for the state’s pro-life movement. On the same day, the state board of health took up a newly passed law requiring public facilities to post signs directing pregnant women to health care services.
“[W]hile our abortion rate is actually relatively low, each year there are still thousands of unborn children whose lives are ended through abortion,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. A.J. Griffin, in a statement. “I believe many of those women felt like they had no alternative, but they’ll be haunted by the pain and guilt of that decision for the rest of their lives.”
After its defeat in the Hellerstedt decision, Texas officials bounced back in November with regulations requiring aborted fetuses to receive a burial instead of being disposed of in landfills.
Shortly thereafter, the center filed a lawsuit, calling the regulations an attempt to “shame women.”