Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2021 / 10:21 am
In 2021, pro-lifers will be looking to preserve certain federal policies, while going on offense in the states to enact pro-life legislation.
The strategy will have to adjust after the outcomes of Tuesday night's Senate races in Georgia that are projected to give Democrats a narrow majority in the chamber-and control over both Congress and the White House.
As of Wednesday morning, Democrats reportedly captured one of the two Georgia seats in Tuesday's special elections, and were projected to win the second.
The AP certified Raphael Warnock the victor over Sen. Kelly Loeffler, with a lead of more than 54,000 votes with 98% of the votes counted. Meanwhile, Jon Ossoff held a slimmer 17,000-vote lead over Sen. David Perdue, with 98% of the votes counted; the AP had not yet called that race.
If Democrats pick up both seats as expected, they would effectively hold a Senate majority with 50 seats, plus Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being available to cast a tiebreaking vote in the event of a 50-50 split.
More importantly, they would have uniform control over the White House and both chambers of Congress.
A key focus of pro-lifers now, at the federal level, is the preservation of certain pro-life "riders," or amendments enacted by Congress that are attached to spending bills, Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel at Americans United for Life, told CNA Jan. 5.
One of AUL's biggest priorities in 2021, Glenn told CNA, is to ensure that "American taxpayers aren't forced to pay for abortion on a wide scale."
These riders stipulate that the funds can't be used for any number of pro-abortion causes including paying for elective abortions, funding abortion advocacy, or going to groups that provide or perform abortions.
One of these policies, the Hyde Amendment, has come under attack from Democrats in recent years. The policy bars federal funding of elective abortions in Medicaid, but President-elect Joe Biden-who formerly supported the Hyde Amendment-and House Democratic leaders have said they would work to repeal the policy.
"We're waiting to see at the federal level which Joe Biden we get," Glenn told CNA of Biden's differing positions on pro-life riders during his years in the Senate.
Senate Appropriations chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) has said that he would oppose a repeal of Hyde, but Democrats would control the committee with the majority, and could now put Republicans on the defensive to vote against spending bills without the policy attached-including in any COVID relief bill.
Glenn said she "was really pleased" to see members of Congress "coming out in the COVID negotiations" last year "and saying the American taxpayers did not sign up to pay for abortions, they did not sign up to give CARES money to Planned Parenthood."
At the administrative level, the new chair of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help make chemical abortions more widely available by removing safety regulations of the abortion pill.
Current FDA safety regulations, in place since 2000, require the abortion pill regimen to be dispensed in-person by a "certified prescriber" in a health clinic, medical office, or hospital. It cannot be available over-the-counter or dispensed remotely. The regulations apply to certain procedures classified as higher-risk.
Abortion advocates have been pushing for the pill to be dispensed remotely, and a federal court has already halted the Trump administration's regulations during the pandemic.
"They've made it known that that's one of their priorities," Glenn said of the incoming Biden administration and the loosening of FDA abortion pill regulations.
At the state level, AUL is noting the win of former Congressman Greg Gianforte as Governor of Montana. Gianforte has signed amicus briefs of AUL in support of pro-life bills at the courts, and "we know that lawmakers there are really excited to have the opportunity" to pass pro-life bills, Glenn said. Lawmakers in the state have introduced a "pain-capable" bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and while the previous governor vetoed the bill, Gianforte would likely sign it.
Republicans in New Hampshire hold the governor's mansion and the legislature. "I think certainly the pro-lifers there are very energized by the opportunities that they could have to get some legislation passed," Glenn said.
And the success of certain pro-life bills in the courts has put abortion supporters "back on their heels" in what could be a "sea-change" at the courts, Glenn said. A Florida law requiring parental notification of minors seeking abortions has not been challenged in the courts, she said, and Nebraska's ban on dismemberment abortions is not being challenged by abortionist LeRoy Carhart, known for his legal challenges to pro-life bills.
And AUL is also watching for a continued increase in bills promoting assisted suicide at the state level.
"There are so many problems with coercion and the financial incentives to push the elderly towards suicide-by-physician," Glenn said.