After a year like 2016, it might feel as if the November election only just finished and the next one is blissfully far off. One expects there to be plenty of time for Congress and the White House to make sweeping pro-life policy changes. However, the reality is that, since the entire House and one-third of the Senate will be up for election in 2018, Congress has limited time to push through major policy changes before members start worrying about their re-election prospects in earnest. After eight years of the Obama administration, there are many anti-life policies to be revoked and pro-life policies to be implemented. However, the good news is that Congress and the White House have been moving quickly on many fronts to make far-reaching changes for life.
First, there have been a number of pro-life appointments to the President’s cabinet who have already been confirmed by the Senate:
- Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
- Former Senator Jeff Sessions is now the U.S. Attorney General.
- Former Congressman Tom Price is now the Secretary for Health and Human Services.
- Former presidential candidate Ben Carson is now the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
- Former Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry is now the Secretary of Energy.
Another hugely important factor in the national battle to protect life is defunding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. There are many ways to go about shutting off the various taxpayer subsidies for abortion providers:
- The Trump administration has already re-established the Mexico City Policy, which stops aid to organizations providing or promoting abortion outside the U.S. This effectively defunds International Planned Parenthood.
- The U.S. House has passed H.J.Res. 43, which would allow states to withhold Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. This right was taken away by President Obama through regulation after the 2016 election in November. This legislation is currently in the U.S. Senate awaiting action.
- The House has also passed H.R. 7, which is the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. The Act would establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal subsidies for abortion and for health plans that cover abortion (with narrow exceptions).
- H.R. 354 and S. 241 are similar bills that would defund Planned Parenthood. H.R. 354 is the “Defund Planned Parenthood Act,” which would prohibit any federal funds from going to any Planned Parenthood affiliate for one year, except upon certification that no abortions will be performed by these entities (with a few exceptions). The bill would redirect the funds to community health centers instead. In addition, the current draft of the American Health Care Act, which would repeal and replace most of Obamacare, would put a one year freeze on Planned Parenthood’s funding. This bill was recently introduced in the U.S. House. Because it uses the process known as budget reconciliation, it only needs a simple majority to pass in the Senate and would not be subject to the filibuster. The initial draft of this legislation is likely to see significant changes if it advances through the House and Senate.
- Last, but certainly not least, at the time of this writing, Judge Neil Gorsuch is preparing for his Senate confirmation hearings set to begin March 20 in the Judiciary Committee. A vote of the full Senate is expected in early April. Gorsuch was nominated to fill the open position on the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of January. So far, he has had meetings with more than 70 Senators, including Democrats who are up for election in 2018 in states that trend more Republican. Unless Republican leadership makes a drastic rule change (known as the “nuclear option”), Gorsuch will need 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster and be confirmed to this critical job. Thus far, Gorsuch has received unusually positive bipartisan responses and there are signs that he will be confirmed. Gorsuch served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since 2006, where he once dissented from a ruling hostile to Utah’s attempt to curb funding for Planned Parenthood.