WASHINGTON — Buoyed by the number of laws being passed at the state level and dozens of federal judges being confirmed, pro-life advocates are hailing a tipping point and "shift" happening across the U.S. on abortion.
The "scales [are] finally tipping" in favor of the unborn, said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser as she addressed hundreds of guests gathered Monday for the annual Campaign for Life Gala, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.
"It's about time, don't you say. The time is now," she said.
Supermodel and businesswoman Kathy Ireland, who served as mistress of ceremonies, also celebrated the “incredible shift happening in America.”
"We work and pray as though it is only a matter of time,” she said.
In recent months, several states in the South and Midwest have passed laws banning virtually all abortions or at the moment when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Dannenfelser attributed the "tidal wave" of pro-life momentum across the U.S. to the radicalism of the other side. She urged those in attendance to travel to and spend tourist dollars in states like Georgia where major companies and Hollywood actors have boycotted due to their recently adopted abortion restrictions.
Her group's goals for the coming year include re-electing President Trump, whom she called the most pro-life president in history; electing pro-life legislators to both chambers of Congress; passing legislations that prohibit abortions on the basis of sex and disability; and overturning Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a 2016 Supreme Court decision that struck down restrictions — such as requiring they have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — on abortion providers.
Honored for his leadership in the U.S. Senate, particularly his facilitation of two Supreme Court justices and 110 federal district and appellate court judges confirmed to lifetime appointments on the bench, Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was presented with the Distinguished Leader Award.
During his remarks, the Kentucky Republican, who is the Senate Majority Leader, criticized Democrats for their "extremism" on the abortion issue.
"The one thing I get to do that the other 99 don't get to do is decide what we're going to do," he said to laughter.
"And obviously that was on full display when I decided not to fill the Scalia vacancy," he added, a remark to which the crowd gave him a standing ovation and loud cheers.
In 2016, stalwart conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died but because Republicans held the majority in the Senate, McConnell refused to grant a hearing to Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick to replace him. Because Donald Trump was re-elected and the Senate majority held through the 2016 election cycle, the vacancy was filled with Neil Gorsuch and Anthony Kennedy's seat, vacated in the summer of 2018, by Brett Kavanaugh. McConnell's tactical move in 2016 is thus seen as what kept the decades-long dream alive of dismantling Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
McConnell told the crowd Monday that he believes that by prioritizing lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary they will have the longest, most positive impact on the country in the future. His goal, he said, is "no vacancies left behind, none," with those judgeships filled by jurists who are "talented, brilliant, and young."
Nationwide, approximately 1 in 5 of the federal court of appeals judges have been appointed, confirmed, and installed in the two and a half years of the Trump presidency, the Senate leader said.
Speaking of the volatile Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination process last fall, McConnell continued, "We ended up voting on more than one man's career. We were voting on basic American principles of fairness and justice. Does the presumption of innocence still apply in America? Yes."
Keynote speaker Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador and former governor of South Carolina, noted during her speech that many on the left use abortion to divide women, demand conformity, and do so under the banner of feminism.
"But that is not real feminism," she stressed.
"The idea that women must adhere to a particular set of values is one of the most anti-women ideas in today's culture. It is a rejection of the ideas of equality and tolerance that the women's movement is supposed to be about."
"As a pro-life, female governor, I was blessed with a unique platform, and I made every effort to use it appropriately — not to lob attacks at people who disagreed with me, not to diminish the other side, but to reframe the debate, to explain that being pro-life is not about being for or against women. It is about being for a baby's right to live — the most basic right there is.”
Musicians Cody Rae Lee and Phil King performed a song, titled "Not Forgotten," which was inspired out of their grief after seeing the World Trade Center illuminated in pink early this year in celebration of a law in New York that legalized late-term abortion procedures.