Radical Abortion Bill Could Undo Pro-Life Progress
During a year when one of the most pro-abortion presidential administrations in history is pushing abortion every chance that it gets, it can be strangely comforting to read abortion-related news coming from pro-abortion organizations in the country.
Take, for instance, the Guttmacher Institute, one of the most powerful and extreme pro-abortion agencies on the planet. A month and a half ago, I quoted an article on their website titled, “2021 Is on Track to Become the Most Devastating Antiabortion State Legislative Session in Decades.”
Given the strong abortion push from the federal government, one might wonder whether the Institute is exaggerating. Some activist organizations, after all, tend to paint worst-case scenarios, even when things are going well for their cause, simply in order to drive increased donations and support. Urgency sells.
However, the Institute recently updated that article to reflect the ongoing pro-life progress at the state level this year. The data certainly supports their fear that the pro-life movement is, as they put it, “engaging in a shock and awe campaign against abortion rights.” Or, as I would put it, determinedly working to protect the lives of all human beings, including the unborn.
As of a few days ago, says the Institute, 561 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 47 states, including 165 abortion bans. According to Guttmacher, a total of 83 of those restrictions have already passed.
“To put those figures in context,” writes the Institute, “by the same date in 2011—the year previously regarded as the most hostile to abortion rights since Roe was decided—70 restrictions had been enacted, including seven bans. Already, 2021 is tied with 1973 for the second-most enacted restrictions ever.”
The thing that gives me such encouragement is that 2011 (the previous high watermark for passing abortion restrictions) was during the Obama presidency. Now the new most successful year on record for pro-life activists is during the Biden administration. Both administrations vie for the top spot as the most pro-abortion administration ever. But pro-life heroes have used these less-than-favorable circumstances to do more than they have ever done before.
What a testimony to the grit and determination of this life-saving movement!
A Radical Pro-Abortion Bill
And yet, despite the encouraging success of the pro-life movement this year, there is reason to stay alert. Because if the pro-abortion lobby has its way, much of this progress could be wiped out in, well, a heartbeat.
A few days ago, Democrats in Congress re-introduced a radical pro-abortion bill that, if passed, would do just that. The so-called Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) would protect abortion as a “right,” and overturn and prevent any abortion restrictions that aren’t applied to a “medically comparable procedure.”
As National Review reports, “That means the federal legislation would strike down popular state laws establishing 24-hour waiting periods before an abortion is performed, informed-consent laws, bans on sex-selective abortions, and many health and safety regulations.”
And as Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, explained to Catholic News Agency, “It would also do away with popular pro-life riders like the Hyde Amendment which protect Americans from paying for abortions with their tax dollars.”
In other words, it would instantaneously undo years’ worth of work from the pro-life movement, work that has contributed mightily to reducing the number of abortions in the country to the lowest level in decades.
Pro-life activists are raising the alarm about the bill. “The deceptively named ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ is an extreme federal takeover that would directly attack the rights of the American people to enact and enforce pro-life laws through their duly elected legislators,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.
Abortion survivor Melissa Ohden asked in response to the introduction of the bill, “How can access to abortion, the very act that should have ended my life, simultaneously be a fundamental right to exercise?” Ohden testified against the bill in Congress a few days ago.
Will It Pass?
This is not the first time that Democrats in Congress have introduced the WHPA. In fact, it has been introduced every year since 2013. On previous occasions the bill has not even come up for a vote.
According to the pro-abortion group Act for Women, however, this time the WHPA was introduced with 176 supporters in the House and 48 in the Senate, or “more than in any previous Congress at introduction.”
Fortunately, this is still not enough support to guarantee the bill’s passage. But, as John McCormack at National Review points out, there is reason to be concerned. Democrats already enjoy a majority in the House and hold fifty seats in the Senate. Thank God, two out of those fifty Democrat senators do not support this radical bill. However, were the Democrats to pick up a couple of seats in the Senate during the 2022 mid-term elections, that would give them a majority vote.
Granted, even then they would still likely be short of the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. But with Democrats angling to potentially eradicate the filibuster in the Senate, should they gain enough seats to do so in 2022, there is real danger that the bill could become law at some point.
Thankfully, at this point, it is still a long shot. Nevertheless, it is crucial that we not be lulled into complacency. Big, well-heeled abortion lobby groups like Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute are deadly serious about having this law passed.
Most Democrat Congressmen are completely beholden to such groups, which exert enormous influence in terms of which Democrat candidates win primaries or enjoy continued support once they are in Congress. For many Democrats, it is a question of whether they should bow to the radical abortion giants or lose huge financial and political support.
Pro-Aborts Galvanized by Possible Supreme Court Loss
Furthermore, pro-abortion Democrats are terrified of the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court may soon issue a ruling either eradicating or dramatically undermining Roe v. Wade, and look upon the WHPA as their possible salvation.
Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge against a Mississippi law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks, except in cases of medical emergency and severe fetal abnormality. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the mere fact that the Court agreed to hear the challenge suggests that the Court is at least open to revisiting Roe v. Wade’s “viability” requirement – i.e., the requirement that abortion be allowed on demand pre-viability. That requirement has not prevented many states from passing laws prohibiting abortions pre-viability; but so far, most of those laws have not been able to go into effect because of Roe.
Were the Supreme Court to allow the Mississippi law to go into effect, this could potentially open the floodgates for all manner of pro-life laws, protecting babies much earlier in pregnancy than is currently allowed under the Roe regime. In some states, it could lead to a complete ban on all abortions.
The mere possibility that Roe could be overturned, or modified, has galvanized pro-abortion groups into action. One of the sponsors of the WHPA, Rep. Judy Chu, lamented that the pro-life strategy of passing state-level restrictions “is working and the war on a woman’s right to make choices about her body has made it all the way back to the Supreme Court,” she said. “We know we can’t rely on Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh to protect our rights, and we know that our rights shouldn’t depend on what state we live in at the time. That is why we need to pass WHPA now.”
As the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute noted in an analysis of an almost identical, previous version of the bill, pro-abortion groups have been unwilling to challenge in court the many 20-week abortion bans passed in recent years. Those laws clearly push back against the viability requirement, but only just barely. And that’s the point: such laws are designed to test the boundaries of Roe, trying to find weaknesses that could lead to the end of Roe.
“This lack of litigation shows a real concern on the part of abortion activists that they will lose in court when it comes to limits on late abortion,” noted the Institute. However, “With a single blow, [the WHPA] would accomplish a crushing pro-abortion victory that abortion activists have been largely unwilling to attempt in the courts.”
The pro-life success at the state level is enormously encouraging, and a sign of the creativity and resourcefulness of pro-life activists. But we cannot ignore the fact that losses at the federal level could be devastating, wiping out so much of our life-saving progress.
As always, I encourage you to contact your federal legislators, and urge them to stand strong in defense of all human life. Tell them to oppose the deceptively titled Women’s Health Protection Act, which in no way protects women’s health. And, of course, pray for our politicians, that they will be inspired with the courage and conviction to always use their power to stand in defense of the defenseless.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.