March Brings Big Pro-life Gains

WASHINGTON  — Pro-life legislation that began as a ripple is fast becoming a wave. South Dakota’s abortion ban has been followed by similar efforts introduced in the Mississippi and Missouri legislatures.

Add to that the U.S. Supreme Court taking on the federal government’s partial-birth abortion ban and the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of pro-life protesters, and some see the beginning of the end to legalized abortion in the United States.

“The stars are aligning,” said Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue who is currently running as a candidate for the Florida Senate. “The abortion experiment has failed. The nation is drifting slowly but steadily toward the pro-life position. After over 30 years, we all have to admit that it’s a really bad idea to kill our offspring.”

Terry said he was “elated” by the Supreme Court’s unanimous (8-0, with Associate Justice Alito not voting) Feb. 28 decision ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws could not be used to ban abortion demonstrations.

That legal battle first began in 1986 when the National Organization for Women filed a lawsuit challenging tactics being used by the Pro-Life Action League of Chicago to prevent women from entering abortion businesses. The suit relied on provisions in a 1970 anti-racketeering act used against organized crime and the Hobbs Act banning extortion.

Despite a 2003 8-1 Supreme Court decision in favor of pro-life activist Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to vacate the injunction and reverse the judgment, instead sending the case to the District Court.

“This unanimous ruling is not just a victory for pro-life activists, but for anyone who chooses to exercise his First Amendment rights to effect social change,” said Thomas Brejcha, chief counsel with the Chicago-based Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center and attorney for Scheidler. More than 70 organizations and individuals, including the AFL-CIO, had submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of Scheidler’s right to organize and protest.

Pro-Abortion Reaction

Abortion opponents aren’t the only ones who have noticed the shift.

“Will your state be next? The shocking passage of the South Dakota law banning abortion and the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the federal abortion ban case have us all outraged,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s main web page. “You can help stem the tide.”

Planned Parenthood is adamant that it will fight states’ efforts to ban abortion.

“Across the country, state politicians are creating a gauntlet of anti-choice laws and regulations to make it more difficult for women to get the best and safest reproductive health care services,” said Eve Gartner, a senior staff attorney with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Planned Parenthood will go to court to ensure women, with their doctors and families, continue to be able to make personal health care decisions — not politicians.”

The Center for American Progress held an unprecedented summit on abortion in Washington, D.C., March 3. Frances Kissling, director of the D.C.-based pro-abortion group Catholics for a Free Choice, came up with the idea for the gathering and co-sponsored it. The attendees hoped to develop a new strategy.

Kissling said that the abortion industry is losing on what it used to consider its own ground.

While pro-abortion groups are trying to reshape their strategy, one group of politicians is trying to reframe the abortion question.

During the week of Feb. 27, 55 Catholic Congressional Democrats released a “Statement of Principles” to explain the relationship between their religious faith and their public duties. They feel that abortion is crowding out all other issues. While acknowledging their desire for policies that “encourage pregnancies to be carried to term,” they asked their bishops to allow them to disagree.

“In all these issues, we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience,” they wrote. “In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes from being in disagreement with the Church in some areas.”

Baker, Ore., Bishop Robert Vasa recently wrote in his diocesan newspaper that a pro-abortion position is not a valid position within the Church. Bishop Vasa said that those who hold such a position are rejecting the Fifth Commandment — Thou shalt not kill — and described such a position as “heresy.”

“There is a point at which passive ‘tolerance’ allows misleading teachings to be spread and propagated, thus confusing or even misleading the faithful about the truths of the Church,” wrote Bishop Vasa. “There is a very strong word, which still exists in our Church, which most of us are too ‘gentle’ to use. The word is ‘heresy.’”

“We’re rebelling against the idea of a one-issue Church,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., one of the signatories of the Congressional Democrats statement.

But Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, countered, “It is not the job of legislators to be issuing ‘Catholic statements of principles.’ That is the job of the magisterium.”

He added that tolerating abortion isn’t simply a matter of disagreeing with the Church but a “matter of losing human decency, tolerating violence and supporting a totally different concept of government, namely, one that takes rights away rather than protecting them.”

Dr. David Reardon, director of the Springfield, Ill.-based Elliot Institute, which offers post-abortion healing for women and men, said that the tide has been turning for some time, but that the South Dakota legislation reflects less of a political victory because the state has always been pro-life.

“It reflects a political decision that now is the time to set up a challenge for Roe,” said Reardon. “The assumptions made by Roe should be reconsidered.”

He cited new evidence in embryology, as well as the harm that abortion causes women, as examples. These considerations were examined by a South Dakota task force prior to passage of that state’s legislation against abortion.

“Because of the changes on the Supreme Court, they feel that now is the time to bring something that may be able to rise up to the court in three years,” said Reardon. “They feel it’s time to test the court again.”

Father Pavone agreed.

“We are all aware of the fact that some disagree about the timing of such bills,” he said. “But when the people and lawmakers of a state want to protect their own children, and have been prevented from doing so for over three decades, perhaps the only way to regain that right is to force the issue.”

Father Pavone added, “The courts are not the only ones who interpret and defend the Constitution. Elected lawmakers are sworn to do so as well. When they carry out that duty by defending life, they deserve our full support.”

Tim Drake is based in

St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during his Angelus address August 30, 2020.

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