Fort Wayne's 43rd annual March for Life is scheduled for Jan. 21, and participants will be even more hopeful than usual that their efforts to curb abortion will bear fruit — and not just because of the election of Donald Trump.
"I'm very optimistic. Momentum has been building over time, and things are coming together," said Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life, referring to the possibility that the Republican-controlled Congress and incoming GOP president may at last be willing to withhold about $400 million per year from nation's leading "provider" of abortion — an effort that may gain steam thanks to a new congressional report alleging Planned Parenthood and others may have broken the law by selling the parts of aborted babies.
Such allegations have been made before, most notably two years ago in a series of undercover videos released by a pro-life group that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the retail value of baby parts between sips of wine in a public restaurant. Many tried to discredit the videos at the time, but the 471-page report by the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, and its 15 criminal referrals seeking further investigation and possible prosecution, will be harder to ignore.
"It's shocking and compelling, and it's extremely important to dig deeper to see what's been happening behind closed doors," said Humbarger, who noted the report lists Indiana University as one of the recipients of trafficked parts. The referrals include five Planned Parenthood organizations, three procurement companies and abortion providers in Texas, Arkansas, Florida and New Mexico.
"Every word of those videos has been validated as true," said Newman. "It is gratifying to see our allegations verified by the panel's investigation," said Troy Newman, president of the national Operation Rescue, who also served as a founding member of the Center for Medical Progress, whose videos served as the basis for the panel's investigation.
Even if no charges are ultimately filed, the report has exposed debased practices abortion apologists would rather keep hidden. The committee found one procurement technician obtained a 20-week-old fetus at a Planned Parenthood clinic, selling its brain to one customer for $325; both of its eyes for $325 each to a second customer, a portion of its liver for $325 to a third customer; its thymus and for $325 and another portion of liver to a fourth customer; and its lung for $325 to a fifth customer. And these were merely for the specimens themselves; the company separately charged each customer for shipping, disease, screening, cleaning and freezing, as applicable. From that single fetus for which the company paid $60, it charged its customers a total of $2,275 for tissue specimens, plus additional charges for shipping and disease screening, according to the report.
Trump, who once described himself as pro-choice, now says he is pro-life and has promised to appoint conservative judges to federal courts, including the Supreme Court, whose 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision discovered a constitutional right to abortion that had somehow gone unnoticed until then. Legal abortion would not go away even if that decision is overturned — regulation of abortion would the return to the states — but Humbarger is optimistic there, too.
That may prove problematic, however, thanks to Senate Democrats' professed determination to block Trump's Supreme Court appointments, which under current rules would require 60 votes for passage. Just 52 of the Senate's 100 members are Republicans.
But some Republicans have suggested they may change Senate rules to require only a simple majority for confirmation, pointing to Senate Democrats' 2013 decision to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" by which they could approve most presidential appointments by a simple majority. Humbarger seems to support that step if necessary.
"The bottom line is, elections have consequences," she said.
That would be a drastic step, and as Democrats now realize, politics is fluid and rules put in place to benefit one party or position can — and probably will be — used by the other side as well. Can the nation be even more bitterly divided than it is already? That would do it.
For now, though, and even without a friendly Supreme Court, Humbarger and 1,000 or so marchers will have every reason to celebrate when they gather at noon at the University of Saint Francis' Performing Arts Center at 431 W. Berry St. in two weeks.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at email@example.com or call him at 461-8355.