Here is the lead article from the June 2020 Erie Echo Newsletter
Pro-life Americans were reassured that Donald Trump was sincerely pro-life when he tapped Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a proven pro-life leader, to be his running mate. Actions always speak louder than words.
Pro-Life People in High Positions
But Mike Pence was just the beginning. The Trump administration quickly became a who’s who list of stellar pro-life individuals from a wide range of professional backgrounds. His prominent pro-life appointees include: Kellyanne Conway as Counselor to the President; Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State; Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education; Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy; Dr. Ben Carson, the renowned brain surgeon, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Governor Nikki Haley as United Nations Ambassador; Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff; Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of the ordained minister and Aransas governor, Mike Huckabee, as Press Secretary; and Charmaine Yost, the former president of Americans United for Life, as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List in May 2017, Vice President Pence remarked, “The President knows that personnel is policy. That’s why he’s literally filled this White House and federal agencies with pro-life leaders.... For the first time in a long time, America has an administration that’s filled top to bottom with people who stand without apology for life.” That is the truth, and the results in terms of practical pro-life action are plain for all to see.
Lockbox on $8.8 Billion Overseas
The first pro-life fruits of the Trump administration matured on January 23, 2017, just two days after Inauguration Day. President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum ordering the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which was originally articulated by President Reagan (and reversed during the Clinton and Obama administrations). The Memorandum immediately stopped the flow of USAID family planning funds to overseas organizations that carry out abortions, promote abortion as a method of birth control, or campaign for the repeal of pro-life laws in other countries. It also expanded the original policy to cover all overseas U.S. health assistance funding, not just family planning funds. Whereas the Mexico City policy under President Bush kept about $500 million out of the hands of the abortion peddlers, President Trump’s expanded version protects approximately $8.8 billion from endangering the unborn children of other nations.
S.C. Justice Neil Gorsuch
A few days later on January 31, President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court–a conservative candidate in the mold of the late, pro-life Justice Antonin Scalia. This was exactly what the President had promised during his campaign for the presidency.
The appointment of any conservative jurist is automatically a victory for the pro-life cause. A judicial conservative is far less likely to disregard the Constitution or duly enacted laws in order to impose personal opinions about issues such as abortion. In this case there were additional reasons for pro-life optimism. As President Trump must have known, Gorsuch had written that human life is “intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong” in his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Judge Gorsuch had never ruled directly on the question of legal abortion, but several of his decisions that were indirectly related to abortion indicated no inclination to interpret or stretch the law in favor abortion or abortion special interest groups. The Judge was not reluctant to tell the unvarnished truth, either, once writing that “the right to terminate a pregnancy differs from the right to use contraceptives because the former involves the death of a person while the latter does not.” Justice Gorsuch was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 7, 2017, all Republicans and three Democrats voting in his favor.
S.C. Justice Brett Kavanaugh
President Trump ignited a firestorm of pro-abortion outrage in July 2018 when he announced his second Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Despite a vicious smear campaign spearheaded by pro-abortion senators, the nomination was confirmed on October 6 by a vote of 50-48. In February 2019 Justice Kavanaugh wrote his own four-page dissent against temporarily stopping the enforcement of a pro-life Louisiana law that required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. When the same case came back to the Supreme Court this March, Kavanaugh posed some tough questions of the pro-abortion plaintiffs. The case had not yet been decided when this newsletter went to print.
Federal Courts of Appeal
President Trump has also filled a remarkable number of open seats on the lower federal courts with excellent jurists. His nominations are being made in consultation with the conservative Federalist Society and its pro-life vice president and board co-chairman, Leonard Leo, a Roman Catholic father of seven. Even the strongly pro-abortion, anti-Trump publication Vox correctly observed that President Trump has already done nearly as much to shape the courts in less than four years as President Obama did in eight years. Three years into President Trump’s first term, one-quarter of all federal judges were Trump appointees, widely acknowledge by friend and foe alike as highly intelligent and exceptionally qualified.
The President has appointed 51 judges to the critically important federal circuit courts of appeal. Ronald Reagan, three years into his presidency, had only appointed 25. It took President Obama two full terms to appoint only 55. The President’s appointees are on average 10 years younger than Obama’s, which means they will carry the Trump pro-life legacy even farther into the future.
Federal District Courts
As of March 2020, President Trump had also appointed 138 mostly conservative district court judges. At least one of these, Judge Sarah Pitlyk, is a full-fledged pro-life activist. Now serving on the U.S. District Court for Eastern Missouri, Judge Pitlyk is the founder of Yale Law Students for Life and a former attorney for the Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal organization.
Grassroots pro-life Americans, those who devote time, talent, and treasure to the pro-life cause, those who patiently endure the occasional antagonism that goes with the territory, were overjoyed about Pitlyk. It is so nice to see a fellow “pro-lifer” empowered with such a prestigious, life-long position by a President of the United States.
Standing with the People
President Trump has clearly made the pro-life cause his own, standing shoulder to shoulder with everyday pro-life Americans down in the trenches. That solidarity is perhaps most palpable during the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
This past January, President Trump became the first U.S. President in the 47 year-long history of the March for Life to come to the National Mall and address the marchers in person. It was a March for Life like no other, so exciting, and perhaps most exiting for the tens of thousands pro-life teens who witnessed that historic event with their own eyes. But this was only President Trump’s most dramatic March for Life gesture. In 2018, both the President and Vice President Pence, surrounded by dozens of pro-life students and their families in the White House Rose Garden, addressed the Marchers by live video. President Trump also spoke to the marchers by live video in 2019. In 2017, only days after his inauguration, President Trump was clearly there in spirit, sending Vice-President Pence and his top advisor Kellyanne Conway to speak on his behalf.
Always on the Offensive
We do not want pro-life government officials who are merely right to life cheerleaders. But if President Trump’s only accomplishment beyond stirring words was his impact on the federal courts he would have already earned the title of “Most Pro-Life President Ever.” But there is even more. It is hard to remember everything the President has done to advance the cause, but we should try. So here is a timeline of additional important pro-life initiatives that President Trump has taken.
January 24, 2017 - Issued a forceful statement urging Congress to pass the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, which “would prohibit any funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law to be expended for any abortion or for direct payments to insurers for health benefits coverage that includes coverage for abortions.”
April 3, 2017 - Announced that the U.S. would no longer fund the United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA) because of its complicity with forced abortions and sterilizations in China. Annual payments to the UNFPA have been as high as $75 million (2015).
April 13 2017 - Signed a law to repeal an order issued by President Obama that forced states to channel Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood and other agencies that carry out abortions. The law was passed by the U.S. Senate earlier the same day, with Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote in his Constitutional role as President of the Senate.
May 9, 2017 - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved the plan, called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” which directed U.S. government departments and agencies to apply the provisions of the Mexico City Policy to all grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts with foreign non-governmental organizations, denying over $8 billion to pro-abortion organizations.
January 18, 2018 - President Trump’s HHS announced the formation of a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). It was established to ensure the enforcement of laws already on the books that are supposed to protect healthcare workers who refuse to take part in abortion, euthanasia, and other procedures that violate their deeply held moral or religious convictions. OCR Director Roger Severino declared, “Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions.”
January 18, 2018 - Addressing the March for Life, President Trump issued a pledge to “to veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life federal policies and laws, or that encourages the destruction of innocent human life at any state.”
January 19, 2018 - Signaled his support for states that want to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements. He did so by rescinding an Obama ruling designed to intimidate these states by raising the threat of legal action.
November 7, 2018 - President Trump’s HHS issued a rule that requires insurers who participate in the Obamacare program to follow the provisions of the law pertaining to abortion funding and transparency, which were never enforced by the Obama administration: 1. Every state is required to ensure the availability of at least one insurance plan that does not pay for elective abortion. 2. Every insurance plan that pays for abortions must clearly inform every subscriber that that is the case. 3. Part of each monthly payment is to be segregated for abortion coverage (an accounting gimmick, basically). The cost of this abortion coverage is to be billed and paid separately. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have since initiated a lawsuit to stop the President’s effort to comply with the law as written.
February 2019 - Finalized the Protect Life Rule, which requires Planned Parenthood and other recipients of Title X family planning funds to maintain “clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning.” Planned Parenthood refused to comply, forfeiting approximately $290 million of taxpayer money per year.
May 2, 2019 - The Trump HHS issued a final rule protecting health care professionals from discrimination or retribution “because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”
June 2019 - President Trump’s HHS and National Institutes of Health announced they would not renew a major contract with the University of California, San Francisco to fund research using the body parts of aborted babies.
January 2020 - Granted Texas a waiver to fund a specialized program that excludes Planned Parenthood, reversing an Obama denial of a similar waiver in 2013.
January 2020 - President Trump’s HHS announced it is taking action against California for violating the Weldon Amendment by discriminating against organizations that do not cover abortion in their health care plans.