Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, didn’t think things could get worse in 2016.
First came the landmark 5-3 decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, where the U.S. Supreme Court struck down safety measures adopted by Texas state lawmakers to regulate abortion centers. The decision in late June represented a major blow to pro-lifers who hoped a different outcome would have ramped up safety standards nationwide and reduced the number of abortions.
Then the next day, the high court rejected an appeal from a Washington state pharmacist who did not want to betray his conscience and provide abortifacient drugs. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his dissent that those who value religious freedom “have cause for great concern.”
Back-to-back court defeats combined with extreme pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton leading in most presidential polls at the time had pro-lifers reeling.
“In a two-day period we thought we were losing our culture,” Mancini said.
But six months later, as March for Life staff members and volunteers finalize plans for the world’s largest annual peaceful protest for the unborn in January, there’s a renewed sense of optimism in the pro-life movement for 2017 and beyond.
State legislatures across the country continue to make incremental progress on protecting children in the womb. Nebraska became the first state to pass a ban on abortions after 20-weeks in 2010. Since then more than a dozen states have enacted similar limits and numerous other protections.
But pro-life groups have grander long-term goals: defunding Planned Parenthood, making the Hyde Amendment permanent in barring taxpayer-funded abortions, and securing a pro-life Supreme Court to one day overturn Roe v. Wade.
An ambitious agenda that seemed impossible earlier this year without pro-life officials in key government positions, but Election Day results have sparked a fresh outlook for pro-life organizations.
“With Hillary, we were looking at a pro-abortion Supreme Court for the next 30, 40 years; we wouldn’t get anything passed,” said Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League and a pioneer in pro-life activism. “But [Donald Trump’s] strange election has electrified the movement.”
Scheidler was not a Trump fan during the campaign, telling me he thought the president-elect was a playboy and that many of his ideas, such as building a wall at the U.S. southern border, were “ridiculous.”
After Trump clinched the Republican nomination, his selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate and Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager helped quell Scheidler’s skepticism. But he never believed Trump could actually win.
“We were ready to be where the Democrats are now: gloomy, sad, disturbed,” Scheidler said. “But Trump sneaking through the way he did, there’s a really strange optimism.”
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SOURCE: WORLD Magazine