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By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency,
– Pro-life legislators and organizations remain optimistic about ongoing efforts to ban abortion in the United States, despite an incoming House of Representatives, led by a Democratic majority committed to the practice.
Although leadership elections have not yet taken place, former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is widely expected to replace outgoing speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has retired from Congress. Pelosi is in favor of abortion rights, and once defended her refusal to support a bill banning late-term abortion by saying “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me.”
With a Pelosi-led Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, pro-life advocates predict it will be much harder, if not impossible, to pass further protections for the unborn. At the same time, they remain confident that their work will continue to be effective.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), told CNA that he and other pro-life legislators would have to be “as persuasive as we possibly can to bring up the negative aspects” of abortion and try to change minds on the issue.
Wenstrup added that while it will certainly be a challenge to do anything legislatively with a new majority in the House, he said that there are other issues the pro-life movement can pursue that might garner support from members of the Democratic Party, such as legislation addressing assisted suicide or limiting the use of fetal tissue in experiments.
In addition to being a congressman, Wenstrup is also a physician, which he partially credits for his values, along with his Catholic faith. He said that it was essential that pro-lifers continue to “make the case for what is ethical, what is right” but conceded that there is no practical chance of further legislation to curb abortion during the current lame duck session of Congress.
Pro-life leaders say that there will be significant challenges ahead now with a new party in control of the House of Representatives.
“Well, I think our biggest challenge in the coming two years with a Democratic, pro-abortion Democratic control of the House will be to protect the Hyde Amendment,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told CNA. Tobias said that she believes that the repeal of the Hyde Amendment will be a “top priority” for the new House leadership.
“We know that the American public strongly opposes using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion, but I still expect the Democrats to try very hard to repeal the Hyde Amendment and try to force taxpayer funding on America,” said Tobias.
Tobias was, however, confident that the Senate would be able to continue to confirm pro-life judges to the federal bench. She told CNA that Trump and the Senate have done a “fantastic job” at this over the last two years.
“We are thrilled that pro-life members have actually increased in the Senate after the election, so we will be expecting that to continue,” she explained.
“Which is great news for the future.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, met with President Donald Trump last week and urged him to take action during the “lame duck” session of Congress, before the new members officially begin their terms.
Hawkins said she asked the president to refuse to sign any budget that includes funding for the abortion provider Planned Parenthood, and that she hopes Trump will formalize new pro-life protections in Title X regulations “as soon as possible.”
She also encouraged the president to “continue to appoint judges who respect life in law” and to cease the funding of fetal tissue research through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Additionally, Hawkins told Trump that she hopes that the government is able to “sever the connection between sex education and abortion vendors.”
This could be done through new restrictions on federal grants. Currently, Planned Parenthood recieves grants to teach sexual education in schools, Hawkins said.
Hawkins compared the use of the grants to “their own personal marketing slush fund” through which teens are taught to acquire contraceptives from the organization, and then to go back for an abortion “when their advice and products fail.”
In a statement to CNA, Students for Life said that pro-life advocates have to “hold the line” on issues such as the Hyde Amendment and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
“There is growing momentum across the country for commonsense limits on abortion and state laws such as protecting women’s lives and health with safety regulations,” Students for Life told CNA.
“People are ready to vote on human rights issue of our time, and that is what will happen when Roe v. Wade becomes an historical footnote.”
Another pro-life leader had a different approach to the upcoming legislative session.
Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now leads the pro-life ministry And Then There Were None, told CNA that she hopes “those legislators that pro-lifers elected to Congress should keep their promises to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“However, that’s not where And Then There Were None focuses our energy – if there are no more workers at abortion clinics, they will close and taxpayers will no longer need to worry about their money going to support these clinics,” said Johnson.