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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - While even one unborn child saved from abortion should be heralded as a victory, pro-lifers were given several reasons to celebrate this year and several to mourn.
Pro-lifers started out the year hopeful that the fight to end abortion had finally taken a turn in their favor. In January, President Donald Trump became the first sitting president to speak to the participants of the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Trump affirmed his commitment to defend the U.S. Constitution and the right to life for unborn children and improve the United States' abortion laws from among the seven worst in the world — alongside China's and North Korea's laws.
He decried the legality of late-term abortion in several states, saying, "The laws allow a baby to be born — torn — from his or her mother's womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change." He also called on the Senate to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks when science has proven that an unborn child can feel pain as early as 18-weeks gestation.
In a 51-46 vote, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was defeated. This defeat would not have been possible without the support of 12 Catholic politicians and two Republicans, Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Three Catholic Democrats, Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), voted for the life-saving bill.
Apparently emboldened by Trump's support for life, several states' legislators have been promoting legislation to advance the Culture of Life. Tennessee is one of those success stories. In February, they approved the "heartbeat bill" that requires doctors to provide an ultrasound prior to performing an abortion. In April, the culmination of seven years of pro-life work resulted in $1.1 million of state funding being stripped from Planned Parenthood and instead given to public health departments for family planning programs.
Also in April, Tennessee lawmakers approved the construction a monument to the victims of abortion on the state's Capitol campus. The law, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in May, stipulates the memorial will be funded by private donations and that would stand alongside the monument to the victims of slavery.
In May, Trump announced his plan to slash taxpayer funding for abortion according to the wishes of the majority of Americans. A Marist Poll from January found that more than six in 10 Americans support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and 60 percent of Americans oppose or strongly oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion.
Trump's plan included reviving the Reagan-era rule that closed a loophole that allowed facilities receiving Title X funds to provide referrals to abortion mills. Originally, Title X money was not allowed to be used for "programs where abortion is a method of family planning."
Trump's new rules for Title X grants encourage providers to place an emphasis on sexual risk avoidance counseling and partnerships with faith-based and community organizations. This could strip Planned Parenthood of around $60 million in taxpayer dollars, but wouldn't come close to stopping all of the nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayer money they receive.
Pro-abortion groups were also infuriated when, the day after the midterm elections, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized new regulations that allow almost any employer to exclude birth control coverage from their health insurance coverage for moral or religious reasons.
The second proposed rule separates health care billing for abortion-related services and would require customers to see a second bill for insurance premiums related to abortion services.
Politico reported the vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood, Emily Stewart, said, "The Trump-Pence administration has done more in two years to undermine access to reproductive health care than any administration in modern history has done in eight."
Results for abortion measures on the midterm election ballots were mixed. While voters in West Virginia cut off Medicaid funding for abortions and removed all protections for the so-called "right to an abortion" from their constitution, voters in Oregon chose to keep public funding for abortions. Oregon has the least restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Voters in Alabama chose to make their state the first state to recognize the unborn child as a person in their constitution. The "personhood clause" gives basic human rights to unborn children — including the right to life."
In a rare victory from the Supreme Court, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra was struck down.
NIFLA brought suit over California's Reproductive Fact Act that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise where women could get free or low-cost abortions. Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the crisis pregnancy centers that the law violated the First Amendment and forced them to advocate for abortion.
The hopes for even more pro-life victories in the Supreme Court were dashed in December when Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with the liberal Supreme Court justices and refused to hear the companion cases Gee v. Planned Parenthood and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood. These cases would have decided a private individual's right to sue the state over its Medicaid provider determinations.
The federal courts have been divided on the issue and that usually prompts a review from the Supreme Court but neither Kavanaugh or Chief Justice John Roberts voted to allow the cases on the docket. Speaking to Church Militant, John-Henry Weston of LifeSiteNews noted, "Pro-lifers should be outraged today, but not surprised."
He explained Kavanaugh's answers during the confirmation hearings raised "serious questions about his pro-life credentials."
Michael Hichborn of The Lepanto Institute said he was concerned about Kavanaugh's commitment to upholding the right to life when he was first announced.
"What concerns me is that he is on record elevating precedent over right judgment," Hichborn said. "It seems that these concerns have now played out into reality."