To borrow from Dickens, 2019 could be described as the best of times posing as the worst of times. While anti-life laws passed in New York, Illinois, and Vermont received most of the media attention, the truth is that advocates for life were pushing forward nationwide.
As we make our way through 2020, I would like to pause and recount the top-ten moments of what will be remembered as a bellwether year in the fight for life.
10. Passion for Life in the States
2019 saw 58 life-affirming laws passed and signed into law across 22 states, representing a more than 25 percent uptick from 2018.
9. Abortion Rates Drop
The national abortion rate dropped to its lowest level since 1972, the year before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in all 50 states in Roe v. Wade. According to Dr. Michael New, a Catholic University of America social research and political science professor and Charlotte Lozier Institute associate scholar, there is a direct correlation between the increase in the number of state pro-life laws and the drop in abortions.
8. Planned Parenthood Made to Pay
In August, a jury in Phoenix ordered Planned Parenthood of Arizona to pay its former health center director, Mayra Rodriguez, $3 million in damages for firing Rodriguez after she brought whistleblower complaints of unsafe clinic conditions as well as a refusal to obey mandatory reporting laws.
7. Unplanned Hits the Big Screen
Another former Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson, now head of pro-life ministry “And Then There Were None,” saw her best-selling book about her journey from abortion advocate to pro-life leader become a blockbuster Hollywood movie.
6. Dr. Wen Forced Out
In July, Planned Parenthood showed its true colors as a business that puts abortion first when it fired its new President, Dr. Leana Wen, for trying to make the abortion giant less about abortion and more about women’s health. The final straw was an article Dr. Wen penned for The Washington Post in which she related her personal story of a pregnancy miscarriage and showed empathy to women who suffer under those difficult circumstances.
5. Born-Alive Bills on the Rise
After Virginia Governor Ralph Northam chillingly stated that an infant born alive after abortion “would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desire,” a shockingly blasé endorsement of infanticide, legislators across the country went to work. The federal government and lawmakers in a dozen states introduced legislation similar to Americans United for Life’s model Born Alive Infant Protection Act. This legislation ultimately passed in two states, Arkansas and Texas. Momentum continues and legislators are considering introducing this bill or strengthening their existing laws to prevent infanticide in 2020.
4. Dignity for Aborted Infants
Indiana’s most notorious abortionist, Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, passed away in 2019. During his career he aborted approximately 50,000 unborn babies, but it wasn’t until after his death that authorities made a grisly discovery—Klopfer had taken 2,246 tiny bodies from the abortion facility in Indiana and kept them in his garage in Illinois. The Indiana Attorney General led a bipartisan investigation into how such a tragedy could have occurred. The need for Indiana’s law requiring the humane disposition of fetal remains was demonstrable and the federal government and several states introduced versions of their own.
3. Suicide by Physician Rejected
In 2019, 18 suicide by physician bills were introduced but a majority were defeated. It only managed to pass in two states, Maine and New Jersey. More importantly, Ohio and Arkansas went the extra mile to defend life and moved to prohibit suicide at the hands of physicians.
2. Planned Parenthood Withdraws from Title X
Planned Parenthood (once again) showed that abortion outweighs healthcare when it announced it was kicking itself out of the Title X program. The Trump Administration clarified the regulations governing the federal family planning program, Title X. Instead of adhering to the regulation’s requirement that there be strict physical and financial separation between family planning services and abortion services, Planned Parenthood rejected funding altogether.
And the #1 Life story from 2019….
1. The Supreme Court Takes on the Life Issue
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily reversed a decision against Indiana and affirmed that nothing in Roe v. Wade prohibits states from requiring that abortionists treat human fetal remains with dignity and respect, as opposed to merely dumping them in medical waste containers. The Court also agreed to hear June Medical Services v. Russo, an appeal from a trial court decision that declared unconstitutional Louisiana’s law requiring abortionists to possess the credentials to admit and follow up with patients in the hospital when an emergency occurs. Americans United for Life filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of 207 Senators and Members of the House of Representatives urging the Justices to uphold Louisiana’s law. In addition, 21 states and the U.S. Department of Justice joined Louisiana in defending this commonsense, life-saving law.
Legislators from coast to coast have already gone back to work and are ready to make a difference for life in their states. While last year’s pro-life achievements were impressive, I am confident that the progress we make in 2020 will have a huge impact in the cause for life.
Natalie Hejran serves as Staff Counsel at Americans United for Life.