by Susan E. Wills, Esq.
November 8, 2002
Pro-life gains on November 5 in the House and Senate are breathing new life into key pro-life initiatives.
In the 18-month tenure of "pro-choice" Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), five key pro-life bills, all supported by overwhelming majorities of the public and the House of Representatives, were quietly buried in Senate Chambers. Every effort was made to keep the pro-life agenda from being debated on the Senate floor, lest it pass or lest it call attention to the positions of pro-abortion members and hurt them in the midterm elections. Allowing pro-life bills to reach the floor would also have rankled the abortion lobby. "Pro-choice" candidates hoping for a share of the abortion lobby"s $10 million-plus budget for election advertising, can ill afford to offend the lobby.
The Senate also set records in stonewalling judicial nominations to federal appeals courts. In fact, Sen. Daschle made the midterm election a referendum on abortion and judicial appointments, pleading for donations to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and warning that, should Republicans gain control, the Senate would confirm Supreme Court nominees willing to reverse Roe v. Wade. It will be refreshing and encouraging that such nominees will now likely get at least a hearing!
Change is already afoot. On November 6, returning Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) promised to move the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act through the Senate: "I will call it up, we will pass it, and the president will sign it. I"m making that commitment " you can write it down."
Other pro-life bills awaiting Senate consideration are as follows: a comprehensive ban on human cloning; the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, protecting the conscience rights of individuals and entities in health care to decline involvement in abortion; the Child Custody Protection Act, protecting parents" rights in states with parental involvement laws by making it a crime for someone else to take their minor daughters across state lines for an abortion; and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which provides legal remedies for killing an unborn child in the commission of a federal crime, paralleling laws in a majority of states.
Only one pro-life Senate seat was lost (in Arkansas), while three seats formerly held by abortion supporters " in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri " were won by pro-life challengers. Two additional seats could switch to pro-life, pending the December 7 run-off election in Louisiana and results of a possible recount in South Dakota.
Still, enthusiasm should be tempered. It"s difficult to pass Senate bills without 60 votes needed to block a filibuster, and abortion supporters in the Senate still outnumber pro-life Senators by a small margin. Also, other legislative priorities, notably homeland security and economic stimulus, could occupy the Senate"s calendar for months.
Yet voters have handed the pro-life community a tremendous opportunity to advance laws giving greater protection to the lives of unborn children and vulnerable women. Together, we can make this happen!
Susan Wills is associate director of education in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops" Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.