South Carolina governor Henry McMaster has reduced state funding for abortion providers, reports the Los Angeles Times. McMaster vetoed a $16 million budget item which would have directed funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.
“I have stated many times I am opposed to what Planned Parenthood is doing. And the veto I have is the most direct way,” McMaster told reporters during a formal news conference.
McMaster’s veto fulfills a campaign promise to pro-life voters who seek to decrease state funding for South Carolina abortion mills. Planned Parenthood denounced McMaster’s political integrity as a “stunt,” arguing that his veto will do little to prevent abortions in the state.
“It’s clear that the governor is singularly focused on his election bid in November and that is at the expense of South Carolina women. The veto does not ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood, but it will ensure that South Carolinians who use Medicaid as their primary insurance will be unable to access affordable, basic healthcare,” said Vicki Ringer, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman.
In fact, McMaster’s veto removed less than half of the proposed $34 million allocation for “Family Planning” in the legislature’s budget, leaving in place sufficient funding for Medicaid patients who benefit from South Carolina’s prescription drug program.
Despite McMaster’s inclusive concern for both unborn children and Medicaid recipients, however, South Carolina lawmakers remain determined to oppose his pro-life agenda. “You are voting for a budget with an illusion at the expense of a reality,” Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R-Columbia) told colleagues during legislative debates in June.
A recent Gallup poll revealed that Americans remain evenly divided regarding their opinions on abortion: An equal number of respondents identified themselves as “pro-choice” and “pro-life,” according to the polling agency’s website. Gallup conducted the study in early May, as the Iowa legislature debated a measure to ban most abortions in the state after doctors have detected a fetal heartbeat.
The results of the poll do not differ significantly from similar studies conducted by Gallup since 2000. Over the past decade and a half, an average of 47% and 46% of Americans have considered themselves pro-choice and pro-life, respectively. However, the pro-life movement has gained traction since the 1990s, when pro-choice respondents outnumbered pro-life respondents by a 9% margin.
The Gallup poll also revealed that Americans hold diverse views about abortion policy. Moderate voters, who favor legal abortion “only under certain circumstances,” comprised 50% of respondents. Meanwhile, roughly one-third (29%) of individuals believed abortion should be legal “under any circumstances.” 18% favored total bans on abortion. All told, 68% of Americans favor at least some restrictions on abortion.
Remarkably, Americans’ opinions on abortion policy have varied little over the past four decades, the study showed. For example, during both the 1970s and the 2010s, roughly 53% of respondents advocated at least some restrictions on abortion.
A similarly consistent trend marks Americans’ views on the morality of abortion: “Though attitudes have fluctuated, at no point have more Americans said abortion is morally acceptable than have said it is morally wrong,” Gallup noted. By Gallup’s reckoning, 48% of individuals currently believe abortion is immoral, while only 43% view the practice as morally acceptable.
Overall, Gallup’s study should encourage pro-life activists, who may occasionally view themselves as an embattled minority striving to turn the tide of public opinion against abortion. In fact, half of Americans self-identify as pro-life, nearly 70% approve of at least some abortion restrictions, and most consider abortion morally objectionable. Thus, the pro-life cause should acknowledge its substantial base of support, which has continued to remain broad in recent decades.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that California pregnancy centers which oppose abortion must no longer advertise the practice. The state of California had required all licensed pregnancy clinics to provide clients with information about low-cost abortion and contraception options—regardless of the clinics’ religious beliefs or stance on abortion.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion for the Court, which decided the case—National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra—on a 5-4 vote. California may publicize government-sponsored abortion programs, stated Thomas, but the state “cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion emphasized pregnancy clinics’ First Amendment liberties: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. [California’s law] imperils those liberties,” Kennedy wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also deemed California’s law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Breyer expressed the minority’s dissenting view from the bench.
Breyer argued that the Court should honor a previous 1992 decision in which it required Pennsylvania doctors to inform their patients about adoption services. Why should states not similarly require pregnancy centers to inform clients about abortion services? Breyer asked. “As the question suggests, there is no convincing reason to distinguish between information about adoption and information about abortion in this context,” he stated.
Perhaps the First Amendment itself provides the distinguishing test Breyer seeks. The government clearly compels pregnancy centers which oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds to violate their convictions via mandatory abortion advertisements. Physicians, however, likely do not oppose adoption for religious or moral reasons; thus, the state cannot possibly infringe on their “freedom of thought or belief” by compelling them to publicize information they already endorse.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Michael Farris recognizes that freedom of speech and conscience constitute the proper basis for the Court’s decision. “No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion,” Farris stated. “In this case the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”
Farris’ organization represented the pregnancy centers in the case. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled against the clinics in a unanimous verdict which upheld the entirety of California’s law. Thus, the Supreme Court’s decision represents a heartening turn of events both for pregnancy clinics in California and the national pro-life cause.
In a statement confirmed by the Vatican, Pope Francis denounced abortions of unborn children with congenital defects, reports CNN. The Pope compared the practice to Nazi eugenics.
“I have heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” Pope Francis stated. “I say this with pain. In the last century the whole world was scandalized about what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today we do the same, but now with white gloves.”
In their quest to create a pure Aryan race, the Nazis compelled individuals with physical and mental illnesses to undergo sterilization, and terminated fetuses deemed weak or unhealthy. The modern world condemns such practices in hindsight, yet does not feel repulsed by infanticide today, noted the Pope.
Pope Francis expressed his opinions on abortion during a meeting with a delegation of Italy’s Family Association in Rome. While the Pope did not prepare his comments beforehand, they were verified by Vatican officials after the interview.
During the meeting, Pope Francis also spoke about his views concerning marriage, which consists of a union between one man and one woman. That union reflects God’s image, according to the Pope.
“Today it is hard to say this, we speak of ‘diversified’ families: different types of families. . . . But the human family in the image of God, man and woman, is the only one. It is the only one,” the Pope asserted.
Pope Francis spoke just days after Argentina, his home country, voted on a measure to legalize abortion as early as 14 weeks of pregnancy. Pro-life advocates must hope that Argentinian lawmakers remain responsive to the Pope’s spiritual authority.
Republican Congressmen who have voted to restrict abortion may soon face new political challenges, according to The Washington Post. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) plans to spend $5 million in 19 states to unseat pro-life legislators in the House of Representatives.
“This is the moment NARAL was made for,” said Ilyse Hogue, the organization’s president. “We’re seeing and feeling a deep anxiety that is ginning up the enthusiasm to take back the House as a buttress against Trump’s draconian agenda. It’s our job to translate it into wins.”
NARAL has never before launched such a large spending campaign, which will focus on vulnerable Republican districts in key battleground states, such as California, Michigan, and Virginia. Pro-abortion advocates hope the campaign will oust legislators who have sponsored “personhood” and “heartbeat” bills. Advocates of such measures, including Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA), Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI), and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), desire to undermine Roe v. Wade by dramatically restricting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
“Voters are shocked when they find out how these guys are voting,” Hogue stated. “When you tell them, at the very least it depresses their enthusiasm for supporting them. At best, it moves toward another candidate.”
NARAL has enjoyed significant increases in revenue following the 2016 presidential election. In the days following President Trump’s victory, the group’s weekly donor count increased by 4,000% relative to average. Such generous support has allowed the organization to expand its efforts to undermine the pro-life cause.
In a heartening decision for pro-life advocates, the US Supreme Court opted not to overturn Arkansas’ ban on abortion by medication. The Court heard arguments pertaining to the law on appeal from a lower court, but declined to offer an opinion. The case now returns to the lower courts via a remand from all nine of the nation’s top justices.
Abortion provider Planned Parenthood initiated the suite, and may still ask a federal judge to block Arkansas’ law. “Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “This law cannot and must not stand.”
Laguens argues that the courts should consider the law an “undue burden,” since it also imposes radical limits on conventional abortions in Arkansas. Indeed, under the statute two of the state’s three abortion clinics would close their doors, leaving only one facility operational.
Arkansas has attempted to legalize similarly robust protections for unborn children in the past, including a recent effort to institute a 12-week abortion ban. That law, however, succumbed to a blocking order by a federal appeals court.
Arkansas’ newest pro-life measure may similarly fail to withstand judicial scrutiny: In 2016, the Supreme court struck down comparable abortion restrictions in the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Family Council Executive Director Jerry Cox, however, remains optimistic. “This is very good news for people who care about the safety of women in Arkansas,” he stated. “This is a pro-life victory not only for the women of Arkansas, but for women across the nation. I’m sure other states will be looking at Arkansas and considering following our example.”