Pro-Lifers Move Past 'Deep Demoralization'

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WASHINGTON - The pro-life movement definitely took a blow when the health care bill passed Sunday, March 21.

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List called it "deep demoralization" as well as "intense sadness and actual grieving."

Tom McCluskey of the Family Research Council's action arm characterized it as "definitely a setback."

Washington Times Religion Editor Julia Duin spoke with CBN News about the impact the health care law is having on the pro-life movement. Click here for her comments.

What especially hurt was having pro-life Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., switch their votes at the last hour, the only way the bill could have passed.

"We really had a few guys led by Congressman Stupak that had all the power, all the power to save unborn children for decades," Dannenfelser said. "And he gave it away for a piece of paper that has absolutely no weight to it."

Ineffective Executive Orders

That was the executive order President Obama promised Stupak would prevent tax dollars paying for abortion. But McCluskey pointed out, "Executive orders cannot change the law. And the law of the land is the Senate bill, which funds abortion."

Julia Duin, religion editor for The Washington Times, told CBN News that Stupak made things even worse the day the bill passed. 

"What added insult to injury," Duin explained, "is the pro-life people were saying when they camped out at his office on Sunday, he'd closed the door. He wouldn't talk to them. So that's why they're angry. They're not just betrayed. They're angry."

Susan Muskett of National Right to Life pointed out 70 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, but were ignored by Congress. 

"So that is very offensive to pro-life citizens across the country who exercised the tools at their disposal here in this democracy to make their voices heard, but they were not listened to," she said.

The passage of the health care bill has presented the pro-life movement with a whole new set of questions: how big a blow is this? How should they fight it? Should they use civil disobedience and what form should it that take?

Civil Disobedience?

Some are suggesting tax resistance as a type of civil disobedience: refusing to pay the amount of taxes that would fund abortion. Civil disobedience certainly isn't new to the pro-life movement. 

"There are parts of it that are based in civil disobedience, following in the great examples of Martin Luther King Junior and Gandhi, of blocking abortion clinics, of even praying in front of abortion clinics," McCluskey pointed out.

But these groups say they're not recommending tax resistance, at least not now.

"I couldn't at this point say that I would urge our members to do this, to break the law," Dannenfelser explained.

Rather than tax resistance, Muskett said, "We would probably urge pro-life citizens to channel their activities toward the next election."

In fact, pro-life groups say they'll put all their energy now into defeating lawmakers who voted for the bill. 

"Members who voted for this bill should not underestimate the political ramifications, because pro-life citizens are very upset," Muskett said. "And they're going to remember this vote for a long time and we believe that a number of members will be replaced as a result."

Renewed Strength 

And these groups have a powerful new force to aid the cause. Many more young people are pouring into the pro-life movement. Some see the health care vote as their generation's Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion.

"The folks that are coming to our aid are younger and younger and savvier than say me and all my girlfriends," said Dannenfelser with a laugh.

The Washington Times' Julia Duin added, "Anything that energizes the young, I'd say the other side might want to watch out." 

As for the movement in general, Muskett stated, "The pro-life grassroots citizens are the most energized since the partial birth abortion battles with President Clinton back in 1996 and 1997."

So the opponents of abortion are ready to keep fighting, and fighting hard. 

"In terms of attitude," Dannenfelser said, "with absolute tenaciousness right now."

*Originally published March 26, 2010.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at