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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Judy Roberts | author
Apr 01, 2009
Filed under Features

The pro-life movement’s 9/11

The Obama administration’s pro-abortion efforts are bringing pro-lifers together like never before

Marjorie Dannenfelser calls the election of President Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress “the 9/11 of the pro-life movement.”

After eight years of progress, pro-life advocates are facing the possibility of seeing all restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortion overturned, said Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Real threats

The transfer of power in Washington was a defining moment for a prolife movement which had grown comfortable with George W. Bush in the White House. But if there’s any emerging good news, the new threats seem to have galvanized the pro-life movement.

Legate Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, said that new energy was evident in the record turnout at the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, which drew more than 300,000 people, according to the march’s website.

“If anything, this has gotten more people out of the stands and onto the playing field,” Morana said.

Dannenfelser concurs. Besides energizing grassroots involvement, she said, the power shift in Washington has caused pro-lifers to respond to each other with a “generosity of spirit” reminiscent of how Americans reacted after the nation was rocked by terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I’ve been doing this a very long time, but at no time have I seen the degree of charity and cooperation that has really come through,” Dannenfelser said. “There is a common goal and common cause. We really don’t have time to argue. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Fighting FOCA

That work has already begun with a concerted effort to oppose the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which the president, as candidate Obama, promised to make his first order of business.

However, pro-life leaders say that FOCA, which would undo almost every restriction on abortion in the country, is not necessarily the greatest threat at the moment.

Morana said pro-abortion groups are trying to achieve their ends in other ways, such as attempting to get funding for abortifacient contraception into other legislation.

Dannenfelser’s group is now focusing on what it calls the “abortion bail-out package,” a wish list submitted by abortion groups to the Obama transition team including:

• $1 billion in taxpayer funding for international abortion groups;

• $65 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has been tied to forced abortions in China;

• repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which would expand federal funding for abortions;

• expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases, in the Peace Corps and for federal prisoners;

• inclusion of abortion coverage in taxpayer-subsidized national health care.

“There’s not one big bill that has it all in there,” Dannenfelser said. Pro-abortion activists are “too smart for that. All the pieces of funding come from different places, different appropriations bills. The real fight is going to be these upcoming funding bills.”

Congressional pressure

The most effective thing pro-lifers can do now, she said, is to let Congress know they oppose using taxpayers’ money on abortion. The Susan B. Anthony List has generated about 40,000 letters to the Senate supporting the retention of abortion-funding restrictions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ postcard initiative and the Red Envelope campaign have also met with similar success.

Pro-lifers have also pointed out the glaring inconsistency between Obama’s promise to pro-abortion groups and his pledge to reduce the number of abortions.

“If you want more of something, you subsidize it. If you want less of something, you tax it,” said Princeton law professor Robert George, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

“Tell me how you can fund abortion, massively subsidize it and expect a decrease in the abortion rate,” he said. “To accomplish that you would need someone who is more than a messiah. You would need a magician.”

George said everything the Obama administration is proposing would in effect expand the availability of abortion.

Obama issued an executive order on March 9 revoking limitations on the use of federal money in embryo-destructive research that Bush established in 2001, restricting funding to cell lines that already existed.

“I suspect the next major step on the funding front will be the repeal of the Hyde Amendment,” George said. “The pro-abortion lobby itself says that the Hyde Amendment prevents 300,000 abortions a year. So this is a very big issue, and I think they know this is the best chance of getting rid of the Hyde Amendment they’ve ever had.”

Obama has already begun to lift restrictions that allow health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions, including dispensing the morning-after pill. The administration is targeting Bush-era regulations that went into effect on Jan. 20.

George predicts the next effort will involve pressuring states to fund abortion, followed by attempts to remove parental-consent laws for minor girls and informed-consent laws for women considering abortions.

The best solution, George said, may be to identify a handful of districts around the country where there is sufficient support to elect pro-life legislators. “Win four to five of those and it would radically transform the landscape. You’ll find a lot of politicians who are on the fence suddenly confirmed in their pro-life convictions.”

In March, the Susan B. Anthony List launched a campaign to do just that. Former congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) will lead the Votes Have Consequences initiative, a grassroots mobilization and voter education effort in targeted congressional districts and key states nationwide.

“If we learned anything in 2008,” said Jane Abraham, SBAL’s general chairman, “it’s that we need to work early and often to raise the salience of the life issue in public discourse and among voters.”

Judy Roberts is a staff writer for Legatus Magazine.





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