The overreaching goal of the pro-life movement is to restore legal protection permanently to children in the womb and to make a constitutional amendment to secure and protect that right from any changing winds of politics. Often we forget that it is not an overnight process and we must work toward reaching this goal in steps. For that matter, that’s how we reach every goal in life.
After we did not get the support we needed in the Senate recently to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, lots of pro-lifers became frustrated wondering why progress has been so slow. It has been 45 years of the “legal” killing of unborn babies since Roe v Wade. It is tempting, but counterproductive, to jump on the pessimist bandwagon or oversimplify problems.
We should not be discouraged. None of this means we are not making headway. Taking a step back and looking at the trajectory of the last 45 years demonstrates true progress for pro-life victories. Even though Roe has been in place since 1973, one only has to look at the decisions courts have made since then. They have been chipping away substantially at abortion and at Roe vs. Wade, leaving only its core in place. Yes, it’s still “legal,” but the days of its legality are numbered. States are using the rights they have to limit abortion. The numbers of abortions keep decreasing and opinion polls keep moving in a pro-life direction. But if we choose to focus on the question of why it’s so slow to see laws passed that protect the unborn, we may miss the encouraging signs.
Our fight has clear battle lines. It’s easier to defeat an enemy who identifies himself. After Roe v Wade, the political parties gradually solidified their positions each year. We now have the anti-abortion party in the Republicans and the pro-abortion party in the Democrats. They have had opposite views on abortion since 1976 when the Democrats officially included a right to abortion in their platform. The Democratic party platform’s support for it has only grown since then. The party divide has grown more dramatic every year since then. Last election it was hardened even more. (You can read the party platforms in their entirety on our website politicalresponsibility.com.) What we are witnessing is a mounting radical support for abortion from the left juxtaposed with a growing support for the child in womb from the right. In the Democrat platform, tax payer funding for abortion has been a big rallying cry. In the Republican Party, the same assertion the church makes that the innate right to life for the unborn cannot be infringed upon by the government is the position the party embraces.
So then how do we get to where we need to be? As is well known, in order to pass federal pro-life laws, what is needed is for both the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the measure in question. Once both bodies finalize the language on the bill they send it to the president for signature. The House, the Senate and the White House all have to be on board. But since 1973, the first time the House, Senate and White House have all been under control of the party that wants to protect children in the womb was in 2003. That was the first time all the “planets aligned.” And it was precisely at that time that two of the most significant pro-life measures became law. The ban on partial birth abortion was the first. It took 30 years of elections to get there! The partial birth abortion ban had been passed by Congress twice in previous years but President Clinton vetoed it both times. It wasn’t until we had President George W. Bush that he got the bill from a Republican congress and signed it into law. It passed in 2003. Then in 2004, again, with a pro-life majority, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act passed.
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Now in 2016 we are in that season again. We have a pro-life majority in the House, a slim majority in Senate, and now a pro-life administration in the White House. It is also encouraging to remember that when we have a pro-life Senate and president, it facilitates the appointments of pro-life justices. Therefore, the courts will shift in a pro-life direction. Under President Obama, they shifted the other way, but now the pendulum is swinging back. We are making progress again.
Naturally, people will ask why the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act or the defunding of Planned Parenthood have not come to pass. Unfortunately, the current pro-abortion minority is blocking pro-life legislation in the Senate. We need to have a super majority, which requires 60 votes. While we do not have a super majority currently, this can be achieved in the 2018 midterm elections if we get more pro-life senators. That is one of the current priorities of Priests for Life.
Inevitably, some will accuse us of partisan politics. However, it is important to understand we are approaching this strategy pragmatically from a legislative perspective, not a partisan perspective. The reality is that we need to work hard together to keep the pro-life party in power. It is as simple as that. In promoting this strategy, the clergy may not want to appear partisan but anybody would be hard pressed to demonstrate another way around it. The goal of pro-lifers in America should be to work hard to promote pro-life Senators in the 2018 elections.
I am confident we will get to our goal. At Priests for Life, we are kicking into high gear in 2018 to get candidates elected who will work to restore the rights of children in the womb.
LifeNews.com Note: Father Frank Pavone is the national director for Priests for Life.