Year in Review: Fighting for life
2019 brought more challenges but renewed hope to pro-lifers
Pro-life advocates saw both hopeful gains and discouraging setbacks this year in their efforts to fight for unborn babies and their mothers. Fewer women received surgical abortions nationwide, but the number of mothers taking the abortion pill continued to skyrocket. State lawmakers passed more sweeping pro-life legislation, but federal judges blocked those laws from taking effect.
The coming year holds the hopeful possibility that a newly conservative Supreme Court may begin to chip away at, or even overturn, the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The justices have agreed to hear a case about abortion provider regulations in Louisiana sometime next year.
Not safe nor easy
Data released this year showed drug-induced abortions accounted for 39 percent of all abortions in 2017, a 25 percent increase since 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This trend represents a new battleground for the pro-life movement.
Aid Access, a Dutch abortion group, continues to mail abortion pills to women who request them over the internet. So far, 7,000 women in the United States have used the service—even after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered it to stop.
Meanwhile, the FDA found that nearly 4,200 women experienced adverse events from the abortion drug mifepristone, also known as Mifeprex, from 2000 to 2018. More than 1,000 were hospitalized, 599 received blood transfusions, 412 contracted infections, 97 women with ectopic pregnancies took the drug, and 24 died.
Regardless, California decided this year to require college campuses to offer medication-induced abortions for free to students with unplanned pregnancies. States such as New York and Massachusetts are considering similar measures.
Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called this a “callous disregard” for the health of women who take the pills alone in their dorm rooms, in rural areas without access to a hospital, or as victims of sex abuse or trafficking. “It’s changing the face of abortion,” Harrison said. —M.J.
Hard-pressed on every side
Pro-life activist David Daleiden and his colleagues with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) continue to pay a high price for exposing Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue trade.
A judge with ties to the abortion industry ruled in October that Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, and others associated with CMP must pay up to $2.3 million in damages to Planned Parenthood for surreptitiously recording the abortion giant’s associates talking about harvesting and selling aborted baby body parts. Daleiden said the ruling, which his lawyers have appealed, sets “a dangerous precedent” for citizen journalism and First Amendment rights across the nation.
In a separate trial, a judge in November dismissed six of California’s 15 felony counts against Daleiden and Merritt. They will likely go to trial on the nine remaining counts next year.
The abortion industry has maintained that CMP deceptively edited the videos even though no one has sued the group for defamation or libel. CMP is fighting back, recently filing a defamation lawsuit of its own against one former abortionist in Colorado who claimed the footage is “fake.” —M.J.
Less respect for life
Euthanasia and assisted suicide rates continued to climb this year. Belgium recorded 2,357 cases in 2018, up from 2,309 the previous year. While that’s only a small increase, the total number has more than doubled since 2010, when there were 954 euthanasia deaths. Oregon, the first U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide in 1997, saw 168 cases in 2018, its highest number ever and an increase of 10 deaths since 2017. About 2,200 Oregonians have died using assisted suicide since it was legalized.
By October, Maine became the ninth U.S. state to allow assisted suicide. Now, 22 percent of Americans with a prognosis of six months or fewer to live can opt to commit suicide with a doctor’s assistance.
Several cases this year showed the dangers of these practices. Two Belgium deaths involved adult children who say doctors hastily euthanized their mothers, women who suffered from depression, without telling them. In another case in the Netherlands, a physician forcibly euthanized a dementia patient who had previously requested it but changed her mind. In France, 42-year-old quadriplegic Vincent Lambert died of dehydration and starvation after an appeals court granted his wife’s request that doctors discontinue his care despite his family’s objection.
“Dignity isn’t about how you kill somebody,” said Alex Schadenberg, director of the Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “Dignity is how you treat someone who is alive.” —M.J.
Planned Parenthood relinquished $60 million in annual Title X family planning dollars from the federal government in August after the Trump administration enacted a rule preventing those funds from going to organizations that provide or refer for abortions.
More than 20 states concurrently sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to stop the Title X changes, but an appeals court gave pro-life advocates a surprise victory, allowing the rule to take effect as litigation plays out in the courts.
The case may end up with the Supreme Court. For now, a line exists between federal family planning funds and abortion, leaving more room for faith-based providers to apply next year for Title X money since they will no longer be forced to refer women to abortion facilities. —M.J.
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