Listening In: March for Life 2020


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’re listening in on conversations I had recently at the 2020 March for Life, held in Washington, D.C.

And the reason I’m here and the reason I wanted to talk to you, Travis, especially is because of March for Life tomorrow and the ERLC is doing an event tonight here in Washington DC. You guys are kind of in the flow of lots of events that happen here. I’ve been to Evangelicals for Life, which you guys have hosted in the past and religious liberty events and that sort of thing. So this is kind of in y’all’s wheelhouse, isn’t it? 

TRAVIS WUSSOW, GUEST: Absolutely. Yeah. We’re excited to be a part of it. And I think part of how we see our role in the March for Life, as you know, the history of the March for Life is really born out of the Catholic Church and Catholic activism. And so part of what we’re trying to do is bring evangelicals to the table and bring evangelicals to the party as well.

SMITH: And have we been slow to come to this party? 

WUSSOW: I mean, it’s impossible to deny that we have. I think, you know, to our shame, our Catholic friends are the ones who really started, built, and led this movement for decades before evangelicals really got engaged in this issue. And I think woke up to the unique evil of abortion in the United States. 

SMITH: Well, in fact, speaking of waking up, I mean, and I don’t want to put, you know, you and your Southern Baptist brethren on the spot here, but right around the time of Roe V. Wade, the Southern Baptists were not really on the record as being opposed to abortion. 

WUSSOW: Well, actually the opposite. I mean, we were formally in favor of so-called abortion rights at the time. This was before what we call the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist convention. When, you know, our institutions began to turn over and return to what we would consider to be theological orthodoxy. 

SMITH: Well, let me push on that just a little bit because was that the reason? I mean, that there were liberals and the heterodox within the Southern Baptist church saying that abortion was okay or was it just a lack of understanding or urgency around the issue even among conservatives? 

WUSSOW: Yeah, I think it probably is a bit of both. You know, I think there, you know, there certainly was theological liberalism that had become entrenched in the Southern Baptist Convention at that time. But I think you’re right to point out that the story is more complicated than that. A lot of conservatives were asleep on this issue. And I think it’s even worth noting that, you know, the Roe V. Wade decision did not come down with, you know, rallies around the courthouse. I think most Americans didn’t really understand the implications of Roe V. Wade for many months after the decision. 

SMITH: Yeah. It was kind of an out-of-left-field decision. I mean, it was—in fact, some people subsequently, especially on the conservative side of compared it to like the Dred Scott decision. It was just a decision that was so sort of outside the bounds of what you would have expected the Supreme Court to rule or how you would expect them to rule that nobody was prepared for that possibility. 

WUSSOW: Right. Well, and you just even think about the calendar. I mean, when does the Supreme Court hand down big decisions? It’s at the end of the term, it’s in June. But here we are in January celebrating the—well, not celebrating, but marking the 47th anniversary of Roe V. Wade. And, you know, so it goes to show that even in the calendar of the Supreme Court term the decision didn’t come down when you would expect a big blockbuster decision to be handed down by the court.

SMITH: So, let’s kind of use that as context for a fast forward over the last half century. So Roe V Wade comes down, it effectively legalizes abortion in the entire country. A lot of Christians, conservative Christians even were caught flatfooted. But I guess you could say we rebounded pretty quickly. What season are we in now? 

WUSSOW: Yeah, I think in some ways it’s possible that we’re at a seam, but I don’t think we’re really quite done with the state-level activity. I mean, I think what you’ve seen happen in a number of states around the country is really, you know, I think in response, you know, so just looking at last calendar year, you had New York pass its a historic law that basically legalized abortion up until the moment of birth. And then you had, you know, of course the really shocking comments from Governor Northam in Virginia. And in reaction to that, I think, a number of activists, just ordinary people at the state level began to really start asking, well, what can we do at the state level? And you started to see a bunch of states pass laws that I think in some ways were a reaction to that. Just today the governor of the state of Tennessee announced a huge package of pro-life legislation, probably the biggest package of pro-life legislation ever announced at one time by a governor. And so, you know, I think we’re still kind of at that stage and you know, these laws are strategic in the sense that they are putting questions before the court that are aimed at really understanding the contours of these decisions, both Roe and also Casey and inviting the court to reconsider those precedents.

SMITH: So what do you think is going to happen at the court? We’re at the beginning of the term and cases are being granted cert now and are we going to see some pro-life cases get all the way up? Is there a chance of overturning Roe in this session?

WUSSOW:  The biggest case that is before the court this session is a case called June Medical Services v. Gee. It’s a case out of Louisiana. And what it deals with is the question of admitting privileges. So, the state of Louisiana passed a new regulation that if you are an abortion provider, you must have hospital admitting privileges in the case that something goes wrong with the abortion and the life of the mother is at risk. You have the ability to provide basically what’s called continuity of care so that you are caring for the, you know, I mean obviously I’m putting some of this stuff in air quotes, but caring for the woman during this procedure and then you have the ability to continue to care for her in a hospital where more resources are around you. So that that case was enjoined, is now challenged, and the court is going to hear that case. That’s an important question and it’s not likely to overturn Casey altogether or Roe, but it does get to some of the underlying premises of those decisions. And I think, you know, presents the court with an opportunity to unsettle some of those underlying premises. 

SMITH: President Trump is going to speak at the March for Life. By the time most people hear this, it will have already happened. But as you and I are having this conversation, Travis, that’s going to happen tomorrow. He announced, I believe yesterday that he was going to be there. He’s got a lot of credit for being pro-life and yet Planned Parenthood is going to get more taxpayer money this year than in any other year in history. The number of abortions, while they seem to be going down—surgical abortions—we have chemical abortions that we really don’t have a way to fully count—

WUSSOW: Understand and measure what they are.

SMITH: Yeah. Have been increasing dramatically and maybe more than making up for that decline in surgical abortions. So, should we be giving this administration as much credit as we are for being a pro-life president? 

WUSSOW: I think one way of understanding what has happened with this administration is that they have provided new—I mean in some ways every administration since Reagan has been building off of the work that the Reagan administration did in terms of its work on abortion funding, international abortion, as well as the judiciary. And so, you know, obviously president George H. W. Bush expanded upon that work. President George W. Bush expanded upon that work and now it’s President Trump’s turn to do the same thing. And I think you have to acknowledge that in a number of different areas—the Mexico City policy is a good example of this—this administration came in, they were ready to expand the scope of what the Mexico City policy was and really deal with some of the ways that international abortion providers had been trying to work around and undermine the basics of the Mexico City policy. So they created a new floor of what that policy should look like the next time there’s another pro-life administration. 

With that being said, Mexico City policy I think is a good example of the elusiveness of what we’re dealing with right now. Because Mexico City of course, is just a political football that gets kicked back and forth. 

SMITH: That’s right. As soon as a Democrat gets elected, it’s going to be rescinded. 

WUSSOW: Yes. 

SMITH: And, also, I wouldn’t maybe devil’s advocate on what you just said there, Travis. Mexico City policy is one that’s been around for decades literally, and it would have been no surprise that any new Republican administration should be ready for that. Seems to me that there are a lot of other policies—and I would use Title X, for example—that the administration appears to me to be a little bit flatfooted or late on. I mean, when the president was sworn into office, he had a Republican House and a Republican Senate and that would have been the time to get things done. They weren’t ready to get things done. 

WUSSOW: Well, I think on the legislative side of things that is the area where you can level the most criticism. I mean, as you pointed out, there was a two year period where there was unified Republican control of the House, Senate White House. That was the opportunity to get legislation done. Unfortunately, much of what the president has done is great. And, you know, I mean you’re of course right about the Mexico City policy. We would have been outraged if Mexico City had not been reinstated. It was enhanced. And I think the administration deserves some credit for that. And next year or next time another pro-life administration steps into office, we will be asking, not for the old Mexico City policy, but the new Mexico City policy. And that is significant in its own way, but it’s incremental. And so you’re right, I mean, I think, you know, the question about what pro-life policy has been accomplished that will last and endure past this administration is a difficult one to answer beyond, you know, the other big issue that we haven’t talked about, which is the changes to the judiciary. And those are certainly significant. But in terms of, you know, legislative policy, you know, it has been elusive over the term of this administration so far.

TRILLIA NEWBELL, GUEST: So there’s a number of reasons that I want to be here. I do believe that there’s going to come a time when we are going to look back at this day and age since Roe V. Wade came to be and we are going to ask ourselves, did we do anything? And I don’t want to sit silently. I would say that if you look at my broader ministry, this is a part of my ministry. It is not something that I typically would speak on, but I can’t sit quietly and so I am here because I just do believe that it’s important that we stand for life and that I add my voice to that stand. So that’s one reason. And yes, it is kind of like a family reunion. We see a lot of the people who—same faces often. And that is a delight, though I do think, as you’ve said, there’s a sobering reason we are here and that’s not missed even in our hugs and celebrating seeing one another.

SMITH: Yeah. You know, you raised a point there that I don’t think we talk about often enough and that is that this era of post Roe V Wade, seems like it’s been a long time, but in the flash of history it’s just going to be a very short period of time because no civilization that kills its babies survives long term. Either we’re going to stop doing that or the civilization that replaces us will nurture their babies in ways that we are not. So this, just demographically speaking, this will not stand. It cannot last in future generations will ask.

NEWBELL: I think so. Yeah. Yeah. They’re going to ask. And I think like with so many things that we get wrong and we don’t realize when we’re in the midst of it and you look back and you think, well, that was foolish. What were we thinking? I really do believe that we are going to be judged by the next generation as foolish. Like what were you thinking? Why did you think that was the right thing to do? This is a life, clearly. I just do believe that’s going to happen. And so I think we’re all—and of course ultimately and most importantly we’re going to give account before the Lord. And I think I just take that very seriously and I do love babies. And so just I do and so I want to help in any small way. This is a small way, but if I can, I want to be a part. 

SMITH: Well, you know, one of the things that I know you’re also concerned about, Trillia, is talking to women and talking to people who work with women who have already had abortions. I mean, the sad reality is no matter what we wish or hope for, 50 million abortions in this country plus at this point. That probably means 30 to 50 million women have had abortions. And that probably, you know, affects just as many men and brothers and sisters and others. So, to pretend that abortion is not a reality in our day is to just really ignore some really basic math, isn’t it? 

NEWBELL: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, your neighbor probably has had an abortion. That’s probably statistically accurate. And I know of several women who have had abortions and who’ve come to know the Lord and have had to grapple with the reality of what they did to their unborn child. And it has been sobering. And yet I want to remind them of the gospel, the truth of the gospel. There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and that Jesus took on their shame and their guilt and if they’ve repented, to receive that grace. But the reality is it’s going to be a lifelong pain. And so I want to hold the hands of these women who are dealing with that pain of of the choice that they made and who have regret and point them to Jesus because either we believe the truth of the gospel, or we don’t. And we believe that grace covers those who have asked for that forgiveness. And so I do, I believe that we cannot pretend like it’s not affecting women. And I know that there are comedians and a lot of women who would say that they don’t care. And perhaps that’s true for some, but the majority of women care about this. And I would say many of them came to it out of desperation. And so I want to press into that and listen and lovingly serve and not add on guilt or shame that they’re already likely feeling.

SMITH: So Kristan, this is sorta like the family reunion for the pro-life movement, isn’t it?

KRISTAN HAWKINS, GUEST: It absolutely is. I love today because you’ll see all of these students for life groups, respect life groups carrying their banners. You will probably see me chasing some of them down Constitution Avenue. If I don’t know of a group or I haven’t been to the school or if they have not answered my emails, you’ll see me chasing them down.

SMITH: Well, President Trump is speaking and a lot of people think that that’s a really big deal. What about you?

HAWKINS: I actually do think it’s a really big deal. You know, to be honest with you, media coverage of the prolific movement is always very scarce. Last year, I think we got six seconds. There was only one pro-life leader on Fox News the whole day. I mean it was crazy. So you know what we’ve been really concerned about with this impeachment hearing and all this stuff that’s going on in the election, there hasn’t really been that much coverage of the pro-life movement. In fact, I’ve done remarkably fewer press interviews. Usually in advance of the March for Life I’m on the phone the whole day and that really hasn’t been happening this year. So, with the president coming, and I was talking to some people yesterday who were kind of, I don’t know if I want the president to be there and should he be there. This isn’t a political movement, which I agree. This is a human rights movement. But politics is one place we engage. But one of the wonderful things about having the president come is it’s going to shine a big fat spotlight on the March for Life. Just his mere presence is going to ensure we actually get national media coverage, which is so deeply important because we know when we talk about abortion we win.

SMITH: There are a lot of student activities going on—students for life is like behind a whole lot of that. There’s some evidence of surgical abortions going down in this country, but there’s also some evidence that chemical abortions are going up. Net net, are you comfortable with the direction we’re going?

HAWKINS: I am comfortable. I do believe we have the momentum. Fewer abortion facilities, fewer abortions on the whole. But you’re absolutely right. This trend, and this is something I’m going to be speaking about tomorrow at the national pro-life summit to all the, you know, 3,000 activists gathered. It’s something I don’t think we’ve actually started really as a pro-life movement preparing for. So we fought for three years against the bill in California called SB 24. That now just this month forces every state university to dispense the abortion pill, turning every state college campus into an abortion facility. Now New York, Massachusetts this month have introduced similar bills. This is their plan. The brick and mortar abortion facilities, they can’t afford them. They know they get a bad rap. They get protested. They have sidewalk advocates who are out there trying to help women. So what they’re trying to do is just remove abortion from these stand-alone facilities and put abortions everywhere and they want it to be accessible so you don’t to convince a doctor to dismember a baby, it’s just a pill. And so this is something that we as a pro-life moment really need to address because they see the polls. They read the same things we do. Second and third trimester abortions are unfavorable. Nobody wants second, third trimester abortions. Even people who call themselves pro-choice, who would say they vote for pro-choice politicians. So what they want to do is they want to get abortions in the first trimester and they want to get them in the pill because it’s less gruesome. There is no body that they have to dispose of. It’s easier and cheaper and faster for them. So, this is something that we as a movement, we really need to strategically engage on.

SMITH: Michael New, you’ve done a lot of research into the effect of laws and regulations on abortion. What have you seen over the last couple of years? What’s the trend in laws and regulations and what’s been the impact? 

MICHAEL NEW, GUEST: Well, we’ve seen quite a lot of progress enacting protective pro-life laws at the state level. We’ve enacted over 400 laws, I think, since 2010 at the state level alone. That’s more than a third of the total number that have been enacted since the Roe V Wade decision. And there’s just a good body of research that these internal pro-life laws save lives. That if you cut taxpayer funding for abortion through state Medicaid programs, many, many studies show that that stops abortion. My own analysis of the Hyde Amendment, which I did for the Lozier Institute, has found the Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million lives since 1976. Also parental involvement laws requiring a minor girl to get permission from her parents or notify her parents before obtaining an abortion. That lowers the minor abortion rate. So a lot of the laws we pass—cutting off taxpayer funding for abortion, parental involvement laws, well-designed inform and consent laws—these laws all stop abortion and all protect life. 

SMITH: A lot of laws that are being passed at the state level, though, are getting challenged by the left in the courts or in some cases where there’ve been executive orders at the presidential or the gubernatorial level. There’s been a regulatory rulemaking process that has slowed things down. These laws are, you said, well-designed parental consent laws for example. Are a lot of these laws going to stand scrutiny in the courts? 

NEW: Well, we have good precedent on certain kinds of laws that, you know, the Supreme Court has upheld parental involvement in the past. They have upheld the ability of states to not fund abortion with their own Medicaid dollars. We have solid precedence. Some of the newer laws, you know, we don’t have the precedence, you know, we don’t know how necessary the Supreme Court might rule on a 20-week abortion ban. But one thing we’ve learned just over time is that persistence pays off. That sometimes we go up to the Supreme Court, we don’t win the first time. We didn’t win the first time on the partial birth abortion ban, but it was upheld later on. So I think that there’s just a lot to be said for being persistent. We can kind of identify what potential concerns individual judges might have with certain laws, redraft those laws, redesigned those laws to, you know, kind of address those concerns, complaints. So again, you know, not every law will take effect. There will be challenges, some laws will be struck down. But if we keep passing laws and we keep winning elections, again, we will build a culture of life. 

SMITH: One of the themes that I’ve been hearing at this year’s March for Life maybe more than in years past has been an acknowledgement that while surgical abortions have been going down, chemical abortions have been going up. In your experience, is it harder to regulate pharmaceuticals and the chemical abortion industry, so to speak? Or is that a frontier that we’re just going to have to address and figure out? 

NEW: I think we should be concerned. I mean a high percentage of abortions are chemical abortions and they’re probably less, they are less regulated and that may increase the numbers a bit. But I don’t think the overall decline is because of these, “phantom abortions” we’re not counting. The U.S. abortion rate has been falling since 1980. RU-486, I think, was approved by the FDA in the year 2000. And the trend just continued. So we saw declines of the abortion rate well before RU-486 was approved by the FDA. But it is something pro-life should be concerned about that there are fewer doctors for your physicians or to do abortions. One thing their opponents are trying to do is tell-a-med abortions where in a woman can take the abortion pill without having doctor being physically present. I think for a variety of public health reasons, that’s a totally terrible idea. I think we should be aware of this and, you know, try to stop it whenever we can. So again, chemical abortions are something we should be concerned about as pro-lifers. 

SMITH: So if you had a room full of pro-life legislators from state legislatures around the country and you had the opportunity to say to them, “This is where the best opportunity for us lies.” Where would that be? Would it be in heartbeat bills? Would it be in late term abortion? Would it be fetal pain? Would it be in like the Louisiana law, which requires physicians to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital? Is there one area where there’s some low hanging fruit for legislatures right now? 

NEW: I’m going to cheat and give you two. I would say fetal pain I think is certainly a very good issue to push. I’m not a lawyer, but some legal analysts have suggested the fact that there is evidence that the unborn can feel pain. That creates another state interest to protect the unborn. So that might be a challenge that the Supreme Court might find very interesting. Another piece of low hanging fruit is just defunding the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood’s main source of revenue, the largest source of revenue, comes from state, local, and the federal government. So I think we can certainly cut taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood. One thing I’ve always said is that big abortion needs big government. So again, legislators aren’t obligated to include Planned Parenthood in family planning programs. They’re not required by and large to, you know, offer reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for various services that they might provide. Again, I think we can defund big abortion and that would help build a culture of life. Instead, put that money toward pregnancy help centers, which actually uphold life and build a culture of life.

SMITH: So, Ryan, you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “Less activism and more factivism.” What does that mean? 

RYAN BOMBERGER, GUEST: Look, we are in a society that is all wrapped up in acting out of emotion only and people don’t know the context of the issues which lead to really dangerous consequences. So we tout the—our little slogan, “Less activism, more factivism.” We want people to be more informed, especially Christians. We should be more informed before we act out of ignorance. And so we want people to be factivists. We want them to understand the context of the issue and get clarity before they act. You know, we are emotional beings. We’re not denying that, but we have to fuse the emotional with the evidential. 

SMITH: Well, you know, one of the things that Christians have come to believe in terms of activism versus for factivism is that Planned Parenthood is being defunded, that abortions are going down in this country. And, you know, it’s kind of a trick question, but you know the answer to the question, when’s the one year in American history that Planned Parenthood has gotten more money than any other year? From the government, that answer is this year. Why do we continue to believe that this administration is a pro-life administration? 

BOMBERGER: The number of achievements are actually really remarkable. If you actually Google SBA List and pro-life achievements for President Trump, he actually has the most pro-life achievements of any president. I mean, he’s doing the work, unfortunately, that certain GOP members, leadership have not done. My whole issue is I wish sometimes the GOP would act like Democrats and just get stuff done. Because when it comes to the funding of Planned Parenthood, we had the opportunity with Republican control and if Republicans don’t follow through this time around, I mean, unfortunately there’ll be a lot of people who are dissuaded from voting for those who claim to be pro-life.

SMITH: Yeah. But you know, I don’t know need to tell you this, Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in this country, and pro-life achievements sort of feels like the coffee is hot on the Titanic. You know, that the band is playing in tune on the Titanic. If you’re not going to fix that problem, do all the other pro-life achievements matter? 

BOMBERGER: Well, I mean, you’re talking about this administration defunding Planned Parenthood—$60 million of Title X funding. Of course now Planned Parenthood receives $617 million in the last year. So there’s a lot of work to do. But what people don’t realize, it’s not just on the federal government. There are local, there are city councils, county councils that are actually funding Planned Parenthood to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. And so that’s an issue, too. So on the local level, people need to understand there’s something that they can do. It’s not just the federal government but it is frustrating. But then slavery was not abolished overnight. There was an incremental thing. And so I know it can seem really disheartening because it feels like what is actually being done. But there are some significant achievements—Mexico City policy being another one in not funding abortion oversees. It’s an incremental thing and it’s hard to see that. 

SMITH: You know, one of the things that you’ve been talking about, Ryan, is this idea of whole life versus pro-life and sort of some of the factionalism that is built up on the pro-life movement and you’ve said, listen, you want to cut through all of that and just say, “Listen, abortion is an injustice and no matter where we all stand on these other issues, we all in the pro-life movement should agree that we should end abortion.” Is that sort of your position? 

BOMBERGER: It is. I mean, it’s the only movement where we have to carry the cargo of every other social issue in order to validate why we exist. I mean, if someone’s fighting poverty, you don’t say, well, I see that you’re anti-poverty, but I’m anti whole poverty. I mean, no one says that, but yet somehow we have to say and make all these justifications. Well, I’m, and I do this and I do that. It is worthy of a singular focus. I love that the pregnancy center movement is singularly focused on protecting mothers and babies and on mentoring fathers. So I believe as Christians, we are to care for those in need. Proverbs 31:8-9, “Be a voice for the voiceless and care for the poor and destitute.” Absolutely 100%, but the pro-life movement has to be focused on the violent injustice of abortion. 

SMITH: So net-net, are you a hopeful at this stage in the pro-life movement and where we are in this fight against abortion? 

BOMBERGER: I have to be hopeful. There’s really, there’s no other way to be. I mean, I’m a firm believer in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It may seem impossible, but that’s what God specializes in. 

SMITH: Ryan, thanks so much. Thank you.

Mr. Severino, I think people who know your background—Heritage Fundation, Becket Fund—are delighted, at least those of us who are conservative, Christian, pro-life, that you are in the administration. But I’ve also got to ask, are folks like you common in the administration? What’s a nice, solid religious liberty, pro-life guy like you doing it in an administration like this?

ROGER SEVERINO, GUEST: Well, it’s all due to President Trump. And even from the transition on, I’ve seen colleagues from my—I worked at the Becket Fund, the DOJ, I worked at Heritage—and it kept turning and saying, “You’re here, too? And so are you?” It was just amazing the level of talent and the level of commitment to the values of religious liberty and the defense of innocent human life. It is just spectacular. And we’ve not seen this in any other administration. This is by far the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty administration in history. And it’s all due to President Trump. 

SMITH: Well, you know, I keep hearing that and let’s just stipulate for the record, you work for the man. So you’re going to, you know, promote him and his talking points, but I do have to ask a couple of tough questions. I mean, you know, President Trump campaigned on the promise to defund Planned Parenthood. $60 million in Title X funding was eliminated. But the truth of the matter is that Planned Parenthood will get more government funds this year than any year in history when you combine all sources. It’s sorta tough to square those promises, which were unequivocal, with the actual reality of government funding going to abortion providers. 

SEVERINO: Well, I’m going to have to take with that, with the leadership of secretary Azar, with respect to Title X funds, the regulatories we changed say there must be physical and financial separation between abortion activities and Title X activities. And Planned Parenthood has voluntarily withdrawn from the Title X program and that’s many millions of dollars. So they deselected themselves as a result of the actions of this administration to defend human life, to make sure that the law is followed. And we do not fund the overhead of the abortion industry. 

SMITH: Well, let’s stipulate for the record that that’s a good thing. But Title X funds, as I said, are just a fraction of the federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood. I’m also aware of the fact that a lot of regulations, Secretary Azar was here a few moments ago and talked about stem cell research, for example, stem lines that regulations were being put forward, but those regulations have not gone into effect. It feels like a lot of what happens, and maybe this is just a function of being in the government and the way it works, that there’s a lot of fixing to do something but not actually doing something. That the regulations are being proposed or being considered but not actually implemented. True or false? 

SEVERINO: Well, it depends what you mean by the question. We’re dedicated to the defense of human life and we take very bold action when it comes to the issue of research and make sure it’s ethical in accordance with the law. In accordance with the law, of course, entails processes and having worked in government both as a Korean attorney and now as an appointee, I can understand people’s frustration with the pace of things. I get frustrated often with the pace of things. But this administration had a lot of undoing to do from eight years of very bad policies. And that process takes time and then often it has to go through the court system. This president has undone more bad regulations than any other president in history as well. And we’re putting forward great regulations. We’ve got our conscience rule put through, finalized this year. It’s tied up in litigation, yes, but that was a landmark achievement and there’s only more coming down the pike. And we’ve taken full advantage of the time we have and hopefully the time we will continue to have to make sure that the president’s pro-religious liberty, pro-life agenda is fully put into effect using every tool available, whether it’s regulatory, whether it’s guidance. And there’s also a role for Congress to play as well because that should not be left out of the equation.

SMITH: Well I know you’re probably not going to be willing to talk too much about what’s yet to come, but you said you’ve done as much as you could up until now, but there’s more coming down the pike. What are some of those things that we should be looking for? In other words, let me say it if I could be a little bit more concrete, what should we reasonably expect this administration to accomplish in the two years that it has left? 

SEVERINO: Well, take a look at today’s announcement. The secretary today announced—Secretary Azar—that we are taking enforcement action against the state of California, against its universal abortion insurance mandate. They’re requiring every insurance plan under their jurisdiction in the state to cover abortion. This includes the missionary Guadalupana Sisters in California who are a religious order of nuns and they are being forced to pay for insurance coverage covering abortion for fellow nuns. How does that make sense to anybody? And that’s not only immoral, it is a violation of the Weldon Amendment, a violation of federal law, and we’ve announced today that we’re taking action. We have put California on notice. It has 30 days to come to the table, to come into compliance. Because it is risking its federal funding if it does not come into compliance and that there are other states that we’re aware of where this issue has come up. And we’re sending a very strong signal that with this administration, there’s a new sheriff in town on these issues and we expect full compliance with the law. 

SMITH: Well, you’re an attorney. You’ve argued these cases far along into the federal system. 30 days, California, say, doesn’t come into compliance then enforcement has to take place. Realistically, how many years will go by before California is going to be brought into compliance with this law? 

SEVERINO: That is up to California. The ball is in their court. We’ve given them today 30 days to come to a resolution because nobody needs to be forced to pay for other people’s abortions. California has the ability to provide for free and low cost abortions to people who want it in the state. They do that. Private insurers can cover abortion. With action from this administration, if you’re on a federal jurisdiction plan, you must segregate any billing for abortion—no more secret billing for abortion—nd that’s been a great achievement of this administration. So if you want abortion, you could get it. Do not force other people to participate in it when it involves a taking of innocent human life. That is the message. And that is what we’re sending to California and any other state that does what they’ve done. 

SMITH: Roger Severino, thank you so much for your time. 

SEVERINO: You’re very welcome.

SMITH: There’s a lot of energy. I’ve come to the March for Life, you know, for a lot of years. Not every year by a long shot, but many, many years. And there’s always a lot of energy here. Everybody comes together, they see that they’re not alone there, they see other like-minded people. It’s pretty positive when you’re here. And yet I think we’ve got to acknowledge the reality that we still have pretty close to a million abortions in this country every year. That even though surgical abortions seem to be down, chemical abortions probably are up and we don’t even have a full measure likely of what those abortions are. So, given all of that, are you hopeful or not? 

PATRINA MOSLEY, GUEST: I am very hopeful. I am hopeful for two reasons. One, we’ve been at this for 40 years now and we’ve seen so much progress. We’ve seen over 500 pro-life laws enacted across the states. We now have a very pro-life administration that supports life from the womb to a natural death. And that is being implemented downstream to every agency under this administration. So I’m very, very hopeful. Also you’re seeing now with the advancement of technology, it’s undeniable this a child, a human being in the womb. And so the question no longer “Is it a child in the womb and abortion is okay.” It’s, “Am I okay with killing a child in the womb,” because we know that as a human being. So the conversation has shifted to what we know to more facts and is waking people up. The further you have as go on abortion to the point where we’re having them survive abortions and still wanting to take their life, many people are saying, you know what, I’m not for that. And we’ve actually seen more people who may not have identified as pro-life before identifying as pro-life now. So, I’m very hopeful that we’ll see abortion end our lifetime soon.

SMITH: Well, speaking of people who have not identified as pro-life but are maybe moving in that direction, that has been something of a trend in the last few years, maybe two or three years. A lot of people attribute it to grassroots activism and pregnancy care centers around the country. There really has been sort of a change in the hearts and minds of people. However, there are also a lot of people that look at this president and see some of his rhetoric around other issues, around women’s issues, around race issues, and they say, if this guy’s pro-life, I’m not sure I want to be a part of that movement. Now, if you are pro-life already, that’s not going to have an impact on you. But is this the best spokesperson for—this president the best spokesperson for the folks in the middle who are influenceable?

MOSLEY: I would say the focus has to be on policy and not necessarily personalities. Sometimes you’re not going to get your best friend as a person who’s leading the policy front. But the right to life is the most crucial issue there is. If there is no right to life, no other rights can be experienced. And when it comes to abortion, that is the number one killer of African-Americans. So, the best way to be pro-African-American, to be pro-black is to be pro-life. This is a very, very critical issue.

SMITH: Well, certainly you have some credibility saying that because you are African-American leading this pro-life charge. And yet it’s also fair to say that, you know, 90% of African-Americans in this country did not vote for this president.

MOSLEY: And you know what, I really hope to see that change. He did get a significant percentage of the African-American vote in the 2016 election. We’re hoping that with the economic success of the country right now and the success of pro-life laws and the conversation about how abortion has a eugenic concept to it is reaching more African-Americans and hopefully they will turn out for the issue of right to life.

SMITH: So what’s your head look like? I mean, this in some ways this event is kind of like the annual family reunion of the pro-life movement. You look back at the year behind, but you also look forward to the year ahead. What do you, what does the FRC, what do you think the pro-life movement has to look forward to in the year ahead?

MOSLEY: I believe we have more pregnancy resources out there to be extended to women. Right now, pregnancy resource centers outnumber abortion clinics five to one. I believe we’re going to see that continue. I believe we’re going to see adoptions continue to have a rise in that as more people are getting involved. And I also believe for the pro-lifers, our next battle is the chemical abortion matter. Just like you said, it’s hard to detect how prevalent that method is. But what we do know is nearly 40% of all abortions being done. And that is by design. The abortion industry knows it is way cheaper to give a woman a pill than a physician. And the abortion pill is very dangerous to women, but it is very profitable for the abortion industry. So we’re going to stay very alert on this


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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