Two Newly-Elected Pro-life Catholic Congresswomen Discuss Abortion, Faith, and Outreach

Michelle Fischbach and Lisa McClain are part of the record-breaking number of 17 pro-life women who won election to the House of Representatives for the first time in 2020.

Michelle Fischbach and Lisa McClain.
Michelle Fischbach and Lisa McClain. (photo: Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON — A record-breaking number of 17 pro-life women — nine of whom won against pro-abortion Democrats — were newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives this election cycle. That brings the total number of pro-life women in the House to 28, another record with the outcome of two races still pending. 

The Register spoke with two of these women, Rep.-Elect Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., who defeated 15-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson in Minnesota’s seventh congressional district, and Rep. -Elect Lisa McClain, R-Mich., who unseated Democrat Kimberly Bizon to fill the seat of Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan’s 10th congressional district.

Fischbach, who spoke on the phone with the Register Monday, is no stranger to breaking records. Prior to serving as the 49th lieutenant governor of Minnesota, she was the first female president of the Minnesota Senate. She is a graduate of Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minn., and earned her law degree from the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul. She is a wife and mother of two and grandmother of five. 

McClain, who spoke with the Register via email, is also a trailblazer, running for office as an outsider with a background as a successful businesswoman. She is a graduate of Northwood University and worked for American Express for 11 years before working to co-found the financial advising group, Hantz Financial. She is a wife and mother to four children and a philanthropist who has raisedmore than $1 million for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. 

Both women are Catholics, and they told the Register about how their faith has informed their pro-life views. McClain commented that she has “prayed about this issue” and said that “the Lord has gifted an individual with life, and no one else has the right to take that away from someone that hasn't developed a voice themselves.” 

Fischbach said that, for her, the right to life “is something that runs deep, deep in our family and in our beliefs and it’s one of those core issues that means so much that when first and foremost you respect the right to life, a lot of other things fall in place.”


The Outlook in the House 

The incoming group of GOP Congresswomen have an uphill battle ahead of them in a Democratic-controlled House where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has signaled that she will move to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a longstanding bipartisan ban on taxpayer funding of abortion. Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden has also come out in opposition to the amendment, changing his stance on the issue in 2019 on the campaign trail, and Senate control hinges on two Georgia special elections in January.

While Democrats still control the House, they hold the thinnest majority in decades, with a lead of less than a dozen seats, and the results in several close races pending. As The New York Times pointed out, “Democrats are likely to control around 222 seats, effectively allowing no more than a few of their members to defect on any given vote.” Republicans are also looking at a possible House majority in 2022 given that midterm elections historically favor the party that is not in the White House.

Fischbach commented that “one of the things that is going to be very important is protecting the Hyde Amendment so that we’re not using federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. … That’s going to be something we’re going to be working very hard to protect.” She added that, in general, “some of our fights in the near future are going to be more defense than offense.”

McClain said she was looking forward to “working with my fellow members in Congress supporting any pro-life legislation possible.” 

“We need to defund Planned Parenthood and ensure that no federal dollars are going to any organization or entity conducting abortions,” she added.


Reaching Hearts and Minds

While the degree of leverage pro-life Republicans will have in the incoming Congress is still being determined, McClain and Fischbach discussed how to change hearts and minds on the abortion issue. 

McClain pointed out that “the pro-abortion crowd has made this an issue about emotion and not facts that life begins at conception,” and said that “hearing from individuals directly impacted by abortion is very valuable to changing hearts and minds.” 

Fischbach saw education as key to “making sure that people understand that human life begins at conception,” adding that with “advancements in science and the ultrasounds, you can see the baby’s face.” She also said that the promotion of crisis pregnancy centers is an important part of the pro-life message as she comes across the accusation that pro-lifers “only care about unborn children.” But in crisis pregnancy centers, she said, “we are helping the mother, we are helping the child, we are helping on into several years of education and assistance for the mother as she raises the child.”

In an election year that some are calling“the year of the Republican woman,” the two freshman congresswomen discussed the distinct power the diverse group of pro-life women could bring to the pro-life issue. 

McClain called women’s voices “critical in this realm” because “it contradicts the pro-abortion crowd’s only talking point. They believe women should have the right to ‘choose’ but when you hear women talking about this not being a choice for themselves, it mutes their argument.”  She said that “this is not a women's issue, this is an issue about life, and how the Lord has blessed an individual with life.”

Fischbach met many of her fellow congresswomen-elect last week, and called them “a stellar group of strong pro-life women who really can talk about the issue.” She appreciated that “there’s a variety of ages too, I have grandchildren and there’s women with children at home but I think the importance of that is that they’re talking from a voice of experience,” as many of them “have the experience of holding that newborn child in their arms and understanding how just overwhelming it is to see that child for the first time and how it didn’t just turn into a baby instantly.” 

“Much of the time we’re told that it’s old, white men and these are a great, diverse group of pro-life women,” Fischbach added. “I think that’s going to be really important as we move this issue forward.” She is also hopeful that they “can empower a whole lot of other pro-life women to speak out.”