The future of the pro-life movement hung in the air during the 2016 election. While the election of Hillary Clinton could have spelled disaster for pro-lifers, Donald Trump's win might have been the saving grace of the pro-life movement.
Although Trump campaigned on promises to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding, appoint pro-life justices and support bills that protect the lives of unborn children, the question remains whether or not pro-lifers can realistically expect a GOP-led Congress and President-elect Trump to actually follow through and enact measures that pro-life conservatives have long called for.
The Christian Post interviewed pro-life leaders and the chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., to get a feel for what pro-life measures and initiatives actually have a chance of being signed into law in the next legislative session and what pro-life measures don't have a realistic shot of passing into law.
Defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare
The consensus among the pro-life leaders who spoke with CP is that the one pro-life measure that has the best chance of being passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President-elect Trump in the next session is a bill that would repeal a number of major components of the Affordable Care Act and would also strip the nation's largest abortion provider of the majority of its federal funding.
As Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in annual federal funding, both the House and Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of most of its federal funding and would have repealed most of Obamacare and subsidies for health plans covering abortion.
However, Obama vetoed that bill in January.
Looking to the next session, Republicans will only have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, which will make it difficult to pass legislation that requires a 60-vote majority in the Senate.
However, Smith told CP that conservative lawmakers plan to again use the budget reconciliation process to make it so that a 51-vote majority is all that it would take to pass the legislation through the Senate and send it to the president's desk.
"The thought there would be that since we only need a 50-plus-one vote, a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass it, we will be able to repeal Obamacare and the majority of subsidy to Planned Parenthood," Smith said, adding that Planned Parenthood has killed over seven million unborn babies. "Not all of [Planned Parenthood's funding] fits under reconciliation rubric but certainly Medicaid does and that is where [Planned Parenthood] gets 80 percent of their money and take them out of government subsidy."
"We did it last Congress. We sent it down to the president and he vetoed it," Smith added. "So, it's been through the traps in terms of parliamentarians. We have precedent. I am very optimistic that we can accomplish that."
Smith said that he is confident that President-elect Trump would sign such a bill into law, as Trump has expressed a willingness in the past to de-fund Planned Parenthood "as long as they continue to perform abortions."
Permanent ban against taxpayer funding of abortion
For decades, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, has been attached as a rider to appropriations bills. But pro-lifers are looking to make the Hyde Amendment permanent legislation so that if Republicans lose control of the House and Senate, the amendment will be harder for Democrats to strike down.
Smith introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," in the House last year.
Such legislation, should it be re-introduced in the next session, will have a harder time passing through the Senate than the measure defunding Planned Parenthood since it would need a 60-vote majority.
"We will get a permanent Hyde Amendment through the House of Representatives. They voted on that in this current session," Carol Tobias, the president of the National Right to Life Committee, told CP. "I will fully expect that they will do that again, possibly early next year. The problem will again be the Senate. Right now, because of the filibuster, you need 60 votes to actually get something through if the Democrats would decide to fight it."
"I will certainly expect [Senate Democrats] to do it again," she continued. "Democrats have decided that abortion is their top priority, or at least one of them, and they will do everything they can to defend and protect the procedure. They are certainly in cahoots with the abortion industry to try and stop any regulations. It will be a battle in the Senate."
Banning Late-term and partial-birth abortions and protecting born-alive babies
Polls show that a strong majority of Americans support banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Although legislation called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was introduced in 2015 and would have banned abortion at five months of pregnancy, the bill was defeated by Democrats in the Senate.
Even though Trump has expressed support for the legislation, the Pain-Capable bill will likely face stiff opposition again in the Senate once again.
"The Senate is going to be a huge hurdle," Clarke Forsyth, the acting president of Americans United for Life, told CP. "No one should think the road ahead is going to be easy."
Other potential pro-life measures that will require a 60-vote majority in the Senate — such as bans on partial-birth abortions, bans against dismemberment abortions, legislation adding criminal protections for babies who are born alive during failed abortions and legislation to protect religious hospitals from being forced to perform abortions — could also face stiff opposition in the Senate.
"What has changed is the White House. What has not changed is Congress," Tobias added. "We still have an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the Senate who will do everything they can to stop pro-life legislation and that didn't change in the Senate."
"I would love to see [a dismemberment abortion ban] come before the Senate because I would love to see Senate Democrats, especially those who are up for election in 2018, tell their constituents why it is OK to kill an unborn child in the later stages of pregnancy by tearing her arms and legs off until she bleeds to death," Tobias added. "I think that is a discussion we should have on a national level."
Despite the challenges from Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans remain optimistic about the road ahead.
"With a Republican in the White House, I am optimistic about enacting pro-life legislation into law for the first time in a very long time," Sen. James Lankford said in a statement to CP, adding that focus will be placed on the 20-week late-term abortion ban, the Conscience Protection Act, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and de-funding Planned Parenthood.
Overturning Roe v. Wade
Even though Trump has vowed to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, Trump will need to do more than just replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia in order to shift the balance of the court from pro-choice to pro-life.
As Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan are all considered pro-choice and Justice Anthony Kennedy has been known to teeter back on forth on social issues, Forsyth told CP that the court currently has a 5-3 pro-abortion majority that would need to be overcome in order to overturn the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that nationally legalized abortion.
Seeing as how Trump's replacement of Scalia would potentially cut the pro-abortion majority to 5-4, Tobias said that Trump would likely need to appoint at least two more justices in addition to Scalia in order to shift the balance of the court.
Time will only tell if the 83-year-old Ginsburg, the 80-year-old Kennedy or the 78-year-old Breyer, will be able to hold onto their seats until Trump's time in the Oval Office is done.
Passing the Human Life Amendment
In its 2016 party platform, the Republican Party expressed support for amending the United States Constitution to make "make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to children before birth." Such an amendment would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and forbid Congress and states from legalizing abortion.
But in order to pass such a proposed amendment, two-thirds of both the Senate and House would need to vote for the amendment, as well as three-fourths of the states.
Considering that it will be a battle to get just 67 votes in the Senate, amending the constitution is not something that will happen anytime soon.
The only time the Human Life Amendment was voted on in Congress was in 1983. Forty-nine Senators voted in favor of the amendment, which meant that the measure fell 18 votes shy of the 67 needed for the amendment to pass.
"We are a long way from that," Tobias said. "I think it is more likely that if we get new justices on the Supreme Court and a law from a state makes its way to the court, they could use that to overturn Roe v. Wade and then go back to a situation where each of the 50 states would decide what their law on abortion will be."