Last night, more than a dozen leaders of the anti-abortion movement hosted a webcast for activists on their push to cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood’s sexual and reproductive health services. The webcast was organized before President Trump pushed forward his planned announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, but Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch just added to the sense that the movement was finally getting close to achieving some of its top goals, from defunding Planned Parenthood to overturning Roe v. Wade.
“This development really shows that our pro-life movement has opportunities to make progress across many fronts right now, all at the same time,” said David Bereit, the former 40 Days for Life leader who hosted the webcast. “It also bodes well for strengthening the court’s resistance to the so-called right to abortion. And we need to pray for Judge Gorsuch and we need to hope that his nomination will be passed forward, that he will be named to the court, and that this will help to accelerate the reversal of unjust laws and particularly Roe v. Wade.”
March for Life’s Tom McClusky said that the anti-choice movement got to this point—within reach of kneecapping Planned Parenthood and putting an anti-Roe justice on the court—because it was “bold” in supporting Trump’s presidential bid, fighting for Republican obstruction of the Supreme Court seat during the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, and pushing for the inclusion of Planned Parenthood defunding in a budget reconciliation package reversing the Affordable Care Act.
“It really comes down to two words that the pro-life movement that the pro-life movement has had since its inception,” he said, “and that is ‘being bold.’ By being bold, first you had pro-life leaders like Marjorie Dannenfelser and National Right to Life being bold and supporting the general election candidate and making sure he gave out promises of defunding Planned Parenthood as well, as you heard earlier, putting pro-life justices on the Supreme Court. Also being bold is the U.S. Senate. ‘Bold’ is not usually something you attribute to Congress, except Congress was bold both in blocking a Supreme Court justice last year, as well as passing [budget] reconciliation.”
Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List and a top anti-choice booster of Trump’s in the final days of his campaign, said that the anti-Planned Parenthood effort was “moving very quickly.”
“President Trump has taken very seriously his commitments to the pro-life movement and to the country, and so this defunding and redirecting of Planned Parenthood’s funds may very well happen within a few weeks,” she said.
Fr. Frank Pavone
Fr. Frank Pavone
While much of the criticism of Planned Parenthood centered around the organization’s providing of abortions—which are not funded by federal tax dollars—there was also discussion of the role that the organization plays in providing access to contraception.
Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life leader who recently said that she’d personally like to see IUDs and the pill outlawed, didn’t mention birth control in her webcast remarks, but said that the current moment presents a “historic opportunity” to defund Planned Parenthood.
Steve Aden of the Alliance Defending Freedom said that weakening Planned Parenthood would “return women’s healthcare to its rightful place,” saying that the women’s health organization “invented the concept of reproductive healthcare” after the birth control pill came on the market, thus separating “the woman from her family doctor.”
Americans United for Life’s Kristi Hamrick discussed the movement’s fight against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, saying that thanks to the activism of reproductive rights organizations, “life-ending drugs and devices were mislabeled as contraception and added to the mandate for healthcare and forced on the American people.” She noted that AUL has been arguing in courts that some birth control methods covered in the contraception mandate—namely the morning-after pill and certain IUDs—are “abortifacients and not contraception.”
Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation brought up the anti-choice movement’s longstanding charge that Planned Parenthood targets people of color, saying, “Let me just define systemic racism for you. Systemic racism: a corrupt, taxpayer-funded, billion-dollar industry that disproportionately kills unarmed black lives in the womb.”
Bereit agreed that Planned Parenthood “is a racist organization.”
Finally, Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, offered some tips for praying for the end of Planned Parenthood funding, saying “victory here is imminent.”
“The closer we get to victory,” he said, “the more the enemy fights back. And we know that the source of this is demonic. Abortion is demonic, a lot of what goes on in Planned Parenthood is just absolutely demonic.”
He added that ending Planned Parenthood funding “is one of the easiest things in the world to pray for” because “we know where God stands on it”: “God wants this organization, Planned Parenthood, not only defunded but out of existence.”
Pavone added a tip for talking about anti-choice issues with the media, telling activists to connect anything they say about their work to Trump to ensure that it gets reported, since Trump is a “media magnet.”