As pro-lifers gather in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life today, we should celebrate the great year we had in 2011. As I have gotten older, I have realized that pro-lifers need to be engaged on multiple fronts. Among other things, we need to expose our opponents, pass pro-life laws, and shift the culture. Impressive progress was made in each of these areas in 2011.
The year began with reports of the deplorable conditions found inside Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic. The story was so chilling that it even received coverage from media outlets that almost never report on abortion related scandals. Shortly thereafter, LiveAction Films released another shocking expose which depicted Planned Parenthood employees agreeing to cover-up an underage prostitution ring. This scrutiny led to Congressman Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.) calling for the first ever congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood.
Beltway pro-lifers shrewdly coupled the Planned Parenthood controversy with the ongoing budget shortfalls to launch a campaign to defund Planned Parenthood. The campaign enjoyed success. For the first time ever, a majority the U.S. House of Representatives voted to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood did ultimately retain its funding at the federal level. However, nine states succeeded in cutting Planned Parenthood funding, costing Planned Parenthood over $61 million.
Legislative progress at the state level was made on other fronts as well. According to the Guttmacher Institute 83 pro-life laws were passed in 2011. This is more than triple the 23 that were passed in 2010 and more than double the previous high of 34 set in 2005.
Eight states responded to the threat posed by Obamacare by banning abortion coverage in new insurance exchanges. Technological developments prompted five states to ban the use of telemedicine for the provision of abortion medication. Six states passed fetal-pain laws which protect unborn children after 20 weeks — when there is medical evidence that the unborn can feel pain.
These incremental laws and the media coverage they receive are slowly shifting hearts and minds. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, data from both the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control both indicate that the incidence of abortion fell during the George W. Bush administration. Additionally, since the mid 1990s, the pro-life position has made impressive gains in the court of public opinion. Perhaps even more importantly, there is evidence these gains have been the most pronounced among young adults.
At the same time, all this pro-life progress is in jeopardy. The cliché “most important election ever” is vastly overused. However it may contain a kernel of truth in 2012. Obamacare poses a serious threat to the right-to-life movement. Much has already been written about this subject. However, if the state based health insurance exchanges cover abortion — that could lead to an unprecedented amount of federal funds flowing to the abortion industry. Similarly, if abortion is declared a federal health benefit that could easily jeopardize a number of state level pro-life laws.
As pro-lifers return home from the March, they need to realize the important political work has to done in 2012. This year’s election will be our best — and possibly last — opportunity to repeal Obamacare. Indeed, a victory in 2012 may well be necessary to continue the impressive pro-life progress we have all worked so hard to achieve.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, DC. He will be the guy carrying the pro-life sign during Monday’s March for Life.