Pro-life activists are expecting the new Congress to prioritize policies in the upcoming legislative session that will increase protections for the unborn, particularly since Republicans now hold both houses of Congress and the White House.
Advocates for the unborn are especially buoyed because incoming president Donald Trump expresses pro-life views and is picking demonstrably pro-life people for key posts in his Cabinet such as Congressman Tom Price for HHS Secretary and Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General.
Yet for any legal momentum to be gained on the issues, significant legislative efforts will have to take place. While some regard Donald Trump's pro-life credentials as dubious, insofar as he has no concrete track record on the issue and has previously said that he was pro-choice, pro-life advocates are making the most of what looks to be a favorable season to get several important laws passed.
Here are 4 pro-life priorities the 115th Congress and the incoming Trump administration are set to consider.
Strip All Federal Funds for Planned Parenthood
As a U.S. Congressman Vice President-elect Mike Pence was frequently the face of legislative measures aimed at removing all federal funds from the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. But because of either Democrat control of the Senate or a White House supportive of abortion rights, nothing substantive ever made it past the President's desk in the past ten years.
In a Dec. 20 post on the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, President Russell Moore and Vice President for Public Policy Travis Wussow said they intended to "work with Congress to use the next available budget measure to defund Planned Parenthood. We were supportive of the defund effort that was vetoed by President Obama, and we will continue to work to support this effort in the coming Congress."
Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood received a shot in the arm last summer when undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed senior Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the prices of fetal tissue from aborted babies to sell to biotech firms for research.
Late Thursday afternoon, the House Select Investigative Panel on the Energy & Commerce Committee released its final report detailing its comprehensive investigation into Planned Parenthood and those biotech companies to which it sold fetal body parts.
"Over the last year, the Select Panel's relentless fact-finding investigation has laid bare the grisly reality of an abortion industry that is driven by profit, unconcerned by matters of basic ethics and, too often, noncompliant with the few laws we have to protect the safety of women and their unborn children. I have never shied away from my own pro-life views, but the findings of this panel should incense all people of conscience," said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee in a committee press release.
Appoint a Pro-life Justice to the United States Supreme Court
The surprise death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative pro-life stalwart, in February of last year gave the abortion rights advocates hopes to reshape the future of the Court and further seal the 1973 landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade.
Senate Republicans, however, took a gambit of stalling President Obama's nominee, D.C. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, until after the election of a new president.
With a Republican president now elected, Garland's nomination is considered dead in the water. On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly promised to nominate someone similar to Scalia and produced a list of possible choices to fill the vacancy.
But incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has promised a fight, and told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in a Tuesday interview that it would be "hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support," and that he would "absolutely" try to keep the seat open.
Make The Hyde Amendment Permanent
Another legislative item that became a bitter point of division in the election season between the two political parties is the Hyde amendment.
Named after its author, Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde, who served in the House of Representatives from 1975 to 2007, the amendment forbids the use of certain federal dollars to pay for abortions except in cases to save the mother's life or if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.
As noted by the ERLC, this amendment "was originally introduced in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade as a bipartisan way to protect the consciences of Americans, who were then – as they are now – deeply divided on the question of whether abortion should be legal in the United States."
However, unlike previous years, in light of the Democrats specifically calling for its repeal in their platform at their 2016 national convention in Philadelphia, the ERLC further contends that is it is time "for the consciences of millions of Americans to be protected by the force of permanent statute," fully enshrining it into law.
Pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
As medical technology and discoveries continue to shine light on the activity of babies in the womb, one way pro-lifers hope to limit abortions is by preventing the abortion of humans at later stages of development.
The federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bars abortions after 20 weeks, did pass in the Republican-controlled Senate last September by a vote of 54-42, and included support from three Democrats. But the measure fell short of overcoming the 60-vote threshold necessary to surmount a Democratic filibuster.
The bill has the support of 64 percent of voters.
According to DoctorsOnFetalPain, the evidence is plentiful that fetuses at this stage of gestation can and do respond to pain.
One study the doctors cite notes that by 8 weeks following fertilization, "the unborn child reacts to touch."
"After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example by recoiling."