In May, the House of Representatives passed a health care reconciliation bill that contained pro-life protections, such as a prohibition on any federal tax subsidies paying for abortion and a redirection of Planned Parenthood’s funding towards Federally Qualified Health Centers.
But with so many issues on the table, I’m concerned about our pro-life priorities remaining in the legislation as it works its way through the Senate.
This is the opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood, so pro-life America must speak out!
“The Power of One” was the 2017 March for Life theme. That theme was made manifest in a gentle man with a giant heart, who showered his gifts on the pro-life movement. Today I had the privilege of attending the funeral of Deacon Mark Gallagher, a man, who, in the words of Congressman Chris Smith, was a “pro-life unsung hero,” working tirelessly as a pro-life lobbyist for the United States Catholic Bishops for 33 years. (Click HERE or the Congressional Record image to read the full statement from Congressman Smith.)
He passed away last week at the age of 75. He was a beloved husband to Kathy and father to Mark, Kim, Andrew, Lillian, David, Judy, Charles, Kate, and John. He was selfless, a “rock”, and a font of wisdom, as described to the packed church, including dozens of priests and a bishop.
While his family and friends are painfully grieving Mark’s sudden loss, there was overwhelming peace during the mass and a profound sense of the fruitfulness of his life.
Such an impact on our culture often comes at personal cost. Mark had war wounds from striving daily to fight the culture of darkness with a culture of life, love, light. He loved the Lord and lived his life totally centered on Him. His life and his sufferings bore inestimable fruit, much like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies in order to bear fruit.
Mark Gallagher lived a beautiful life, centered on love. He perfectly embodied “the power of one.” May we all be inspired by his story to respond generously to God’s call and be the instrument that seeks the good of all.
Along with pro-life allies, the March for Life sent a coalition letter to the Department of Justice and FBI regarding an investigation into Planned Parenthood. The letter addresses Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and it writes: “The previous administration decided to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing, which led to the creation of the select panel. We request that the Justice Department continue the investigation into the practices surrounding this scandal.”
Guest blog post by Corinne Zay, March for Life intern
Making major news recently is the story out of Hagerstown, Maryland of a pregnant high school Senior, Maddi Runkles, denied the opportunity to participate in graduation from her small Christian academy. Maddi is a straight A student who has been involved in many extracurricular activities at her small school, which requires all students to sign a Christian code of conduct to attend. Included in the code of conduct is the concept that the sexual act is meant for marriage, and the school rightly expects students to abide by this rule.
Earlier this year Maddi discovered that she was pregnant with a baby boy due in September. Acknowledging that she broke the code of conduct, Maddi apologized to the school administration. The school board determined that Maddi would lose her position on Student Council and involvement in extracurricular activities at school, in addition to prohibiting her to walk at her high school graduation in June. Major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post and NBC have reported this story, which has remained in the headlines for days:
Despite the consequences of her life being altered, and her graduation experience being diminished, outcries of support have come from various pro-life organizations with encouragement for her strong courageous decision to choose life and proceed with her pregnancy. Students for Life of America has voiced their support for Maddi and helped her to embrace her decision of life, including having her as a speaker at their #Sockit2PP campaign in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
This support for pregnant mothers is crucial and at the heart of the pro-life movement. March for Life, where I have the blessing of interning this summer, has also released statements regarding the need to support students in this situation with life-affirming actions. The value of the child’s life needs support, in addition to the mothers. Although Maddi may have been denied the support she needed from her school, she has been a tremendous voice of bravery for other pregnant and parenting students. She has joined these organizations by lovingly accepting their support and is paying it forward as a sign of hope for future mothers.
Maddi has drawn attention to the challenge student mothers and fathers face, particularly in Christian culture environments. Maddi and other parenting students inspire universities and schools across America to care for their beloved mothers on campus. Being pregnant on a college campus and in a high school is naturally very intimidating. However, in particular, devout Christian schools may encourage an environment that ironically creates a greater temptation to abort because of the increased likelihood of perceived shame with peers and faculty. The Christian values of love and mercy are so easily distorted by a focus on justice and pride. Even in my own backyard, I fight this distortion of good as President of Ave for Life.
Just this year we launched our first initiative of Pregnant on Campus at my college, Ave Maria University. Ave Maria University is a small Catholic college located in southwest Florida. The campus culture at Ave Maria is one of great joy. Students often attend daily mass, engage in discussions about faith, and work hard to become holy each day (not just on campus). Although Ave Maria University does not have a code of conduct, the moral standard each student holds themselves to is simply understood on campus and truly geared toward being the best version of ourselves.
Although this culture is overwhelmingly positive, Ave Maria is very much full of humans. It is in our human nature that we fail and then learn the importance of mercy and love towards each other. It was in my experience in leading Ave for Life that I had the opportunity to learn authentic love of the pregnant mother.
In February, one of our board members and friends came to me and told me that we had a pregnant student on campus. I was so excited to be able to serve this mother and get to know her. It was then about a month later that I met Beth and learned more about her. Here was a young freshman student at Ave Maria pregnant with a child and we as a pro-life student organization had the opportunity to support.
Ave for Life had discussed beginning a program “Pregnant on Campus” prior to learning about Beth, but God’s timing was impeccable. We began planning and discussing the importance of this issue on our campus. We knew the heart of the issue was how we as a campus would adapt to become a welcoming and loving environment for a pregnant and parenting student.
With the culture of Ave Maria focused on moral values and virtue, many on campus neglected the possibility or idea of a pregnant student. Our Board took this question to the administration and together began working towards solutions. In working with Beth and a handful of other pregnant mothers on our campus we learned how to better support students in this situation.
First, we considered resources that we could offer pregnant and parenting students. We talked with residence hall directors, administration, and local clinics about the opportunities and legal rights we could offer to pregnant and parenting students. Next, we began to plan to make physical improvements on our campus such as adding changing tables to bathrooms and high chairs to dining areas. Finally, and most importantly, we observed the cultural change and discussion that needed to occur on our campus regarding pregnancy. While our campus believes in preserving sexual intimacy for marriage, we also believe in mercy and want to be as life-affirming as possible. Regardless of how a baby is conceived, every life is a gift and a miracle to be received with love!
This past March this year, we launched our Pregnant on Campus initiative to helps students further understand the best ways to support a woman who is pregnant on campus. One of the most important lessons we learned is that because this has not been discussed on campus, it is possible and even probably that many pregnancies have gone unnoticed and unannounced; some that may have even sadly resulted in abortion. Our most important goal with this initiative is to show our brothers and sisters in Christ that Ave Maria is a place where motherhood should be embraced.
It is with this story and goal in mind that I share our authentic Ave for Life culture and encourage other schools and campuses to support your students. One of the simplest things we can do each day is to love our neighbor. We do not know the cross they are carrying. Maybe it is their work stress, maybe it is their day to day tasks, but maybe it is an unexpected pregnancy. Love your neighbor where they are at. To Beth and to Maddi: we are praying for you and we appreciate your unspoken courage in choosing life!
“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” – Mother Teresa
One fine tradition that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) started a few years ago was opening each Congress with a bipartisan, multi-denominational prayer service. The theme of the service this year (chosen by the official House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy, S.J.) was “Building Community Toward a Common Purpose.”
The service included readings from Proverbs (2:1-10), Bhagavad-Gita (XVIII 57-58) and from the Gospel of Mark (12:28-34). The readings focused on service and were all tied together by Rev. Conroy as he asked the Members of Congress gathered to pray for their colleagues as they work together.
One issue in need of such coalition work is the issue of life. Facing an overtly hostile media some pro-lifers are afraid that Congress will not take the steps necessary to challenge the most pro-abortion President of our lifetime, Barack Obama. Starting in his original campaign, President Obama has been bold in the case of abortion, ending with the passage of one of the most anti-life pieces of legislation in generations, his health care law commonly known as Obamacare. As for the pro-abortion Democratic Leadership, they have supported legislation, misnamed, the “Women’s Health Protection Act”, which would nullify every and any advance for the cause of life.
Facing such boldness for the cause of abortion, the pro-lifers in charge of Congress need to have the same boldness. This is a priority first and foremost for moral reasons, but also for political reasons – as the nation is more pro-life than pro-abortion. For years, Congress has fought to maintain the status quo and has been losing. It is long past time to take the initiative on popular and needed pro-life legislation. A good start would be the following:
In the House, passing the Federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which provides protection nationwide for unborn children who have the capacity to experience pain while being aborted, a capacity defined in the bill as existing by 20 weeks fetal age.
Also in the House, passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would clearly and permanently prohibit all taxpayer dollars from being used to cover abortion, including the indirect funding that occurs through subsidies to insurance purchasers.
Passing the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would require every insurance plan established by Obamacare to clearly indicate whether or not it covers abortion.
Protecting current pro-life provisions (also called riders) and adding new ones to end of year spending bills. Every year, pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment, are included in end of year Appropriations bills. Under President Obama’s Administration, new threats to life and issues of conscience have grown by incredible bounds. Congress needs to use the power of the purse to turn back this President’s support of the death industry known as abortion.
One of the top priorities for this Congress should be to return the Congressional Appropriations process to regular order. It has been nearly a decade since Congress has done its very basic job, appropriating funds to pay for the workings of the federal government. Instead Congress has repeatedly passed large, unreadable, unworkable Omnibuses or continuing resolutions, which does little to contain inappropriate spending curbing pro-abortion, taxpayer funded, outreach by the federal government.
All the above should just be a start, being done in the first year, if not hundred days. Despite the U.S. Senate being controlled by Republicans, it is not controlled by a pro-life majority, so groups working on legislation in the 114th Congress will have a lot of work ahead of them in passing some of these initiatives – admittedly some of these bills might even take multiple Congresses to enact. However, without boldness now on the issue of life, the current Congress might not deserve to be given the chance in future Congresses.
Republicans will have full control of at least 29 state legislatures, the party’s largest total since 1928, perhaps earlier. Republicans also will hold at least 32 governorships, including newly won offices in traditionally Democratic Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
How important is this to those in Washington, D.C.? The National Council of State Legislatures points out that the state legislature is where a high number of Federal legislators cut their teeth:
Half of the congressional freshman class will bring with them state legislative experience when the 114th Congress begins in mid-January. Tuesday’s results saw 29 current or former state legislators elected to the House of Representatives and six newly elected senators with backgrounds serving in their respective state capitals. While a number of elections around the country are either too close to call, not yet official, or face runoffs, the upcoming Congress will consist of 219 and 45 members in the House and Senate, respectively, with state legislative credentials, an increase over the previous two election cycles. When the dust settles, about half of the members in the 114th Congress will have served in state legislatures.
NCLS also points out that it was good election for Republicans, as they took the majority in 11 legislative chambers previously held by Democrats. Those chambers were:
New Hampshire House
New York Senate
New Mexico House
West Virginia House.
West Virginia Senate (after Democratic Senator Daniel Hall switched his party affiliation to Republican).
Factoring in all of those changes, here are the bottom line numbers (the Nebraska unicameral Legislature is nonpartisan):
Legislatures: 30 R, 11 D and 8 split
Chambers: 68 R, 30 D
Governors: 31 R, 18 D and 1 undecided (Alaska)
State governments: 23 R, 7 D, 18 divided and 1 undecided (Alaska)
It appears that Republicans will have a net gain of close to 350 seats and control over 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 legislative seats. That is their highest number of legislators since 1920. Republicans gained seats in every region of the country and in all but about a dozen legislative chambers that were up this year.
This will likely open doors to more pro-life legislation in states where one chamber or both were controlled by pro-abortion politicians.
On ballot initiatives it was a mixed bag with the personhood movement failing in North Dakota and Colorado with amendments to grant the unborn constitutional rights.
However, in Tennessee voters approved a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to say that nothing in it protects the right to an abortion or the funding of an abortion. The measure distinguished the right to privacy from the right to an abortion. With 90 percent of precincts reporting, AP said the measure was approved by a vote margin of 54 percent to 46 percent the amendment was a response to a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that said abortion was protected by the state constitution. The amendment was brought before the legislature four months after that decision, but it took nearly 14 years to become law because of political opposition and the state’s lengthy referendum process.
Because of the pro-life laws in surrounding states, Tennessee had become an “abortion destination” spot. Almost 19 percent of the women getting abortions in Tennessee were from out of state, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, in order to avoid pro-life laws like parental consent, in adjacent states.
Hey Republicans, That’s An Awful Nice Majority You Have There. Be a Real Shame if Something Happened To It.
Without a doubt Republicans had a good night Election night. While there are a handful of races still outstanding, House Republicans are on track to have their largest majority since they had 270 seats in the in the 71st Congress (1929-1930).
The election has a number of interesting tidbits (most from the Washington Post and other sources (noted)):
Senators-elect Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst are two of the first Iraq War veterans elected to the Senate. Former Rep. Cotton also gives Arkansas two Republican Senators for the first time since 1879.
For the first time ever, more than 100 female legislators will be voting in the next session of Congress. With Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s Senate victory in West Virginia, the state has its first female senator. Joni Ernst, who won the Iowa Senate race, will be the first woman elected to federal office in that state.
Elise Stefanik, who won the House race in New York’s 21st District, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She is 30.
Mia Love, who won the House race in Utah’s 4th District, is the first black woman to be elected as a Republican representative.
Will Hurd, who won a House race in Texas, became the first black Republican to win a federal election in the state since Reconstruction.
A lesson from the elections is that being pro-life beats being pro-abortion. Three high profile Republican candidates that highlighted their pro-abortion stances and also had a lot of financial support from the Republican Leadership and Establishment lost (or in one case, is losing).
Senator Scott Brown (who was a Senator from Massachusetts for a little while, and this year ran for the Senate in New Hampshire), Richard Tisei, and Carl DeMaio all were sold as “new Republicans” who embrace the culture of death. All of them lost in what was otherwise a Republican tidal wave.
So what does this mean for the 114th Congress, which could easily be seen as a heavily pro-life House of Representatives and a more pro-life Senate?
In the House, we should expect votes on numerous pro-life bills that have been voted on in the past, such as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, as well as legislation that was not voted on, knowing it would lie in limbo in the Senate.
The Senate though is not a lock for pro-life votes. There are a number of Republicans in the U.S. Senate who are either pro-abortion or marginally on the side of the unborn. Any pro-life legislation will have to be carefully crafted and eased through the Senate chamber to even reach a majority of support of 51. Getting 60 votes to overcome any expected filibuster will be even more difficult considering there is only one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who could be considered pro-life. However you should expect a vote on the Pain Capable bill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), as well as a number of newly elected Republican Senators, ran on the platform of a vote on that specific legislation.
That of course wasn’t the only issue Republicans ran on. This election was more about not being President Obama than it was about being Republican.Incoming Majority Leader McConnell, in a press conference following the election, named his primary Obamacare targets: the medical device tax, the individual mandate and the 30-hour work week.
The President’s signature issue, the health care law known as Obamacare, was also a primary talking point for winning candidates. Nearly half of voters – 47 percent – said Obamacare went too far, according to a CNN exit poll. The exit poll survey of 11,522 voters included voters from a random sample of precincts on Tuesday, as well as voters who cast their ballots early or absentee.
The “party of repeal” might now be in power in both chambers of Congress; however, they fall short of the necessary 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate, let alone override a Presidential veto.
In a statement after Republicans took control of the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner did not mention health care. He said we can expect the jobs and energy bills passed by the House to be voted on in the Senate, and he talked about fixing the tax code, legal, regulatory and education systems. He mentioned nothing on Obamacare or pro-life bills.
Bottom line, if the Republicans want to keep their recently won majority they will need to be bold in the House of Representatives on pro-life issues and the Senate Republicans will need to unite on the pro-life issue, regardless of their personal view on protecting the unborn.
Yesterday I had the distinct opportunity of participating in a conference with a remarkable group of women. These women have a wide variety of life experience and backgrounds– ranging from a young actress to a former Member of Congress, to a person considered the most powerful woman in business in America during a period of time.
What brought us all together yesterday is that we believe conservative ideals help women to most fully flourish. We also know that all issues are women’s issues, not just one. Below is a snippet from my remarks yesterday.
“As the President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, my organization’s goal is to help build a culture of life in the United States— a culture in which no woman in her right mind would ever choose abortion. A culture in which marriage, family, religious freedom are all respected. A culture that is about loving women, loving babies, and loving life. A place where people are encouraged and enabled to fully and humanly flourish.
Sadly, in many ways this is not our current cultural reality. There are so many confusing messages out there especially about the issue of abortion. Of course we are all well aware of the false “war on women” rhetoric.
I’m of the mind that the real war on women is more about a crisis in what it means to be human; to be a person, and in particular, a woman. One might call it a crisis in anthropology. Which may sound very heady but I think it especially impacts our young women negatively by presenting very confusing messages to them.
On one hand, we are defined by our body — I saw a study of women recently – what makes you feel worse — losing a job; problems with friends; 10 extra pounds? The majority answered 10 extra pounds. We are in a culture that places a premium on looks from head to toe. . On one extreme– you are almost defined by your body and what you look like.
The other extreme is the belief that “what I do with my body; it doesn’t mean anything – it’s only physical.” As if just being “physical” also depletes emotion. “It’s only physical” pops up in the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine – perpetuating the idea to women that just being “physical” doesn’t mean anything.
Perhaps it is the case that the body has significance and much to “teach” about how we were made and how we will find fulfillment; the body can’t be detached from me. Our bodies make clear that women are completely, intrinsically, different but complementary, to a man. So a woman’s capacity to be a mom falls well within this.
Recently Gloria Steinem, famed feminist, was quoted saying that “if we [women] didn’t have wombs we’d be fine.” In doing so she is perpetuating the idea “don’t define me by my capacity to have children”. My question to women is: is it a good thing to view a woman’s capacity to bear a child as a form of slavery or bondage that she needs to be freed from or at the very least in control of? I think not. To pretend that a woman’s capacity to bear children is insignificant is not empowering to women. It’s the opposite.
What we really need is be pro-women without leaving out any part of her, like the amazing beautiful fact that she can be a mom.
A pro-abortion industry has influenced our culture so much that abortions are almost glorified in Hollywood. We need a culture that values life in this country and we need to move beyond the ways that liberals define women.”