As Catholics, we share an unshakable belief in our duty to protect the lives of the unborn. Respect and protection of life, from conception to natural death, is a cornerstone of our faith. We have a responsibility to honor God by protecting everyone whom he has formed in his image and blessed with the gift of life, especially the voiceless and most vulnerable.
That is one of the reasons I introduced the “Heartbeat Protection Act” (HR 490) in Congress. This pro-life legislation ensures “when a heartbeat can be detected, the baby is protected” from the tools of the abortionist.
But there is another reason I introduced the “Heartbeat” bill, and also drafted for and worked with the Iowa General Assembly to get the state version of “Heartbeat” enacted into law. The second reason is, I received a profound calling.
On Sept. 5, 2016, Phyllis Schlafly, a great friend, an iconic national leader and the founder of Eagle Forum, passed away. I had often referred to Phyllis as “the clearest thinker on faith and freedom of our time, a living, breathing icon.” She had often referred to me as her “favorite Congressman,” and I grieved her loss immensely. It was a distinct honor to participate in events honoring her life and legacy.
I attended Phyllis’ wake the evening before and arrived at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis early for the funeral. I chose to kneel near the back just wanting some time to pray and meditate. Janet Porter of “Faith to Action” took my hand and led me to the front saying, “Phyllis would want you here.”
We were seated in the second pew with Michele Bachmann, quietly discussing Phyllis’ “Heartbeat” request when Donald and Melania Trump and David Bossie, and Kellyanne Conway came in to be seated directly in front of us.
Phyllis and I had many conversations over the years. Typical of Phyllis, she always had a specific objective and a specific strategy. Her pro-life strategy centered around enacting “Heartbeat” legislation and directly challenging Roe v. Wade, as the most important thing we could do to bring abortion to an end. Phyllis, in her last days, made it clear she wanted me to draft and introduce “Heartbeat” legislation.
Phyllis lay in her casket not far from us. The Holy Spirit and the spirit of Phyllis seemed to fill the basilica. Phyllis had inspired each of our lives. There, seated directly behind the soon-to-be president of the United States, I made the commitment to draft, introduce and push for final passage a bill to protect all babies from the moment we have the most certain medical indication of life, the moment “when a heartbeat can be detected, the baby is protected.”
By now, the basilica was filling up with a who’s who of the pro-life faithful of America. Phyllis could have chosen any member who might have been up to the task. She knew I had the conviction and believed in me. She knew I would use all available tools to bring abortion to an end. But neither Phyllis nor I knew that three months later I would be handed the gavel as the chairman of the Constitution Committee, the perfect tool to protect life. We both knew it would be a long, hard struggle and that success requires a pro-life House, a pro-life Senate, a pro-life president and at least two new constitutionalists on the Supreme Court. The man who would make two superb appointments to the Supreme Court and whose pen might one day sign the legislation was, by Providence, seated directly in front of us, Mr. Trump.
As I prayed for Mrs. Schlafly, and for her family, I knew what I was called to do. I accepted God’s calling through his life-long servant, Phyllis Schlafly. Her death became a galvanizing event for the cause of life.
I returned to Washington from Mrs. Schlafly’s funeral and directed my staff, “We will draft a Heartbeat bill designed to directly challenge Roe v. Wade. It will be written not for the current court. Not for when Justice Scalia’s seat is filled, but for the future president’s (Trump’s) second appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
I also predicted Justice Anthony Kennedy would retire June 30, 2018. We then began the process to research and write the “Heartbeat Protection Act.” The following February, I introduced H.R. 490 in Congress.
Today, the “Heartbeat Protection Act” is the single most supported piece of pro-life legislation pending before the House of Representatives; 174 Members of Congress have agreed to co-sponsor the bill, and the momentum behind “Heartbeat” continues to grow.
I made a trip to Kansas City to discuss H.R. 490 with Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who will soon chair the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, and set up a phone discussion on “Heartbeat” with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who agreed to speak with Cardinal Dolan, the current chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Work and prayers do yield results. I can now announce the “Heartbeat Protection Act” has earned the endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a recent letter to me, the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, stated:
It is also due to scientific advances that we have the tools to hear the early heartbeat of the growing child. Accordingly, the Catholic Bishops applaud your efforts to recognize and protect these little ones in law while emphasizing that we need to continue to work for the protection of all lives-including those tiniest persons before a heartbeat is detectable.
I appreciate Cardinal Dolan’s support greatly. He is right: life begins at conception and should be protected from that moment. The “Heartbeat Protection Act” moves us decisively toward this goal, and I believe it would give the Supreme Court a solid constitutional foundation to overturn the illogical, ill-founded and heartless Roe v. Wade decision.
As I write, Justice Brett Kavanaugh is literally taking the oath to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. For the first time in most of our adult lifetimes, we have a court that can be expected to constitutionally weigh the right to Life and deliver an objective, decision to protect the beating hearts of the innocent unborn. The strategy first voiced by the glorious Phyllis Schlafly, one that I have diligently developed in response to a Calling at her funeral is nearly perfectly on track. A chorus of 60 million innocent heavenly voices, never heard in this world but heard beautifully and clearly in the next, plead with us to protect the lives of all innocents. We are called to join our voices together to raise them in an anthem for Life. As St. James wrote, “If we fail to do that which we know is right, we have sinned.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, represents Iowa’s 4th District. He is a member of the House Judiciary, House Agriculture, and House Small Business committees.