The To-Do list from the Pro-Life Women’s Conference

(This is a follow-up to my earlier report on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference held in Dallas, Texas in June.)

A few of the speakers at the Pro-Life Women's Conference. Ellen Kolb photo.
A few of the speakers at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference. Ellen Kolb photo.

Six weeks after the first-but-not-last Pro-Life Women’s Conference bringing together pro-life women from all over the U.S.A., I’ve had time to digest what I heard from the people I met there. I’ve had time to read the bagful of material I picked up from various groups at the event. How can I summarize it all?

I think a to-do list is the way to go. Here are some of the calls to action I heard, from some of the amazing and challenging people I met in Dallas at PLWC.

Get out there

DSCF1340Not every sidewalk counseling or sidewalk witness organization was represented at the conference, but those that were agreed on this much: peaceful pro-life presence outside abortion facilities is essential.

I’m partial to 40 Days for Life, as longtime readers know. It was great to shake hands with a 40DFL leader from Dallas who was handing out flyers for the next campaign, beginning September 28. For New Hampshire information, go to

Expose clinic abuses: the #NotOver Campaign

Put women’s health ahead of politics by scrutinizing every inspection report available from abortion facilities – and if there’s no public health oversight, work to change that.

Even as abortion providers in Texas were challenging the state law calling for abortion facilities to improve their safety standards, concerned Texas citizens led by Abby Johnson were investigating inspection records from abortion facilities. At PLWC, Johnson revealed the first of several records indicating various violations that put women’s health at risk.

The inspection record’s campaign got its name just a day after the conference, when the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Texas law on safety standards for abortion facilities. It’s not over, replied Johnson – and so the #NotOver Campaign got its name.

Read the Texas reports.  Do the abortion facilities in your area get this kind of scrutiny?

Support and expand pro-life women’s health care options

Representatives of The Guiding Star Project shared their ministry of partnering with pregnancy care centers and medical practices to provide abortion-free health care. Other speakers referred to the thousands of federally-funded community clinics where abortions aren’t performed or funded.

Through whatever mechanism is available, reach toward the goal of more abortion-free options for women seeking authentic health care for themselves and their families.


Expand your definition of pro-life

Many speakers at the conference came at this point from different angles. Respecting the right to life means respecting it for the unborn, the elderly, the medically vulnerable, the convicted criminal. There’s something to prompt prayer and discernment.

Protect and expand the Hyde Amendment

DSCF1339I reported on the #HelloHyde campaign in my earlier post on the conference. Since then, one of the two major American political parties has made repeal of the Hyde Amendment a plank in the party platform. This would change the 40-year-old policy, known as the Hyde Amendment, that prevents Medicaid dollars from funding most abortions.

Ask candidates about this – particularly federal candidates. Will you protect Hyde? Will you expand it so that it protects children conceived in violence? Or do  you want taxpayers to pay for abortions?

Listen to birth mothers

“These are the bravest women I know,” said Abby Johnson as she introduced a panel of women who chose life for their children and then placed them for adoption.

Each woman had a different story regarding circumstances of pregnancy and adoption. It’s impossible to be indifferent when listening to them.

Listen more. Learn more. Help build a culture that honors adoption and birth parents. Start here: and

Look for allies in unlikely places

DSCF1337The pro-life movement is much broader than its detractors would have you believe. Break a barrier by listening to someone who took a different path from yours to the truth about the value of human life.

In Texas, I met people from way outside my day-to-day experience: Democrats for Life of America. Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. Pro-Life Humanists.

They made me wonder how many pro-life allies I haven’t met simply because I haven’t looked.

I was pleased to see at the conference that Pro-Life Humanists were handing out a brochure that included quotes from the late Nat Hentoff, a journalist whose work influenced my early activism.

“Being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual – Williams Obstetrics, for example – points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born ‘should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman.’…It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because the thing is not yet a ‘person.’ Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.”

I could go on. What I’ll remember about this conference, and the reasons I’ll come back if there’s another, are the women with different beliefs but a common respect for life.

Behind Bella

Weekend reading: celebrate Hyde; compare/contrast; victory in New Mexico

This was a tough week to pick only three items from the Best of the Rest pile for your weekend reading. I hope these are three that you haven’t seen yet – enjoy them, and have a happy Independence Day weekend!

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

This is a link to a web site, not a single blog entry, but this is can’t-miss information. September marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which sharply limits Medicaid funding of abortions. (There are exceptions for abortions in case of rape, incest, and life of the mother.) Abortion providers want Hyde eliminated. A pro-life coalition led by Secular Pro-Life wants to celebrate it and expand it:

“Celebrate the lives saved by the Hyde Amendment and the lives of all Medicaid kids. Preserve the Hyde Amendment against attacks from the abortion lobby. Expand the Hyde Amendment to cover children in every state and children conceived through violence, and cut the abortion industry off from all sources of taxpayer funding (not just Medicaid).”

Watch Twitter & Instagram for the #HelloHyde hash tag.

Goldberg: No-Gun list? How about a No-Abort list? (

Commentator and occasional provocateur Jonah Goldberg has a modest proposal: contrast anti-Second-Amendment rhetoric with pro-abortion rhetoric. Read the full post. (Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.)

New Mexico court rules against against assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition reports on the unanimous vote by the New Mexico Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that “found” a right to assisted suicide in the state.

“The original case was based on a word game. The original case argued that ‘aid in dying’, which is also known as assisted suicide, is not prohibited by the New Mexico assisted suicide law because ‘aid in dying’ is not assisted suicide.” Read the full post. 

This week in history: Henry Hyde born 1924

Embed from Getty Images

The year after Roe v. Wade, Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois fought for and got a limitation (not a ban) on abortion funding in federal Health and Human Services appropriations bills. The Hyde Amendment has been renewed ever since, despite ongoing efforts by abortion advocates to kill it.

I’m indebted to Priests for Life for reminding me of this statement by the late Congressman, who always sought to encourage resistance to Roe v. Wade.

“When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God — and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world — and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!'”


Noted: anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

[First posted in 2013; amended to reflect current date]
Henry Hyde (photo: Wikipedia)
Henry Hyde (photo: Wikipedia)

I hereby note the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. In 1976, it was the first substantive federal measure to limit the use of tax dollars for abortion. To this day, abortion providers hate it, even though it has exceptions. Those exceptions have led some pro-lifers to oppose it, too.

I’m not one of them. Anything that limits access to my pocket by abortion providers is okay with me. I’m no expert on the measure, but here is what I’ve seen of it (and yes, I’m old enough to have been around when it was first passed).

In 1976, Henry Hyde (RIP) was a Congressman representing an area just outside Chicago. He had been elected in 1974 and was to serve in the House for thirty-two years. In ’76, though, he was just another congressman barely known outside his district. That changed when he drafted a rider to the federal Health, Education, and Welfare budget to keep federal funds from being used to fund abortions within HEW programs, particularly Medicaid. (HEW was later folded into the Department of Health and Human Services.) He persuaded his colleagues to accept that rider, which has been attached to every HHS budget since.

The amendment (rider, actually) has outlived its author. Hyde died in 2007, just a few months after leaving office.

The amendment has been through some changes. Exceptions for funding abortions in case of rape, incest, and health of the mother were added. Abortion advocates dragged the amendment to the Supreme Court, and the measure survived. All this, just to put somewhere into federal law a way to keep pro-life Americans from helping to fund the abortion industry.

We’re not totally disentangled from the industry, by a long shot. Hyde applies only to the HHS budget. The rider could be dropped anytime, despite its long standing. States may use their own funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. Now, Obamacare is creating new ways to force taxpayers into collusion with abortion providers, chiefly through the HHS mandate.

Even so, thanks to the foresight of an Illinois congressman, abortion funding has never been something that abortion providers can take for granted. Providers cast Hyde’s work as something that discriminates against poor women. They evince no similar concern for the poor children killed by abortion.

I think well of Henry Hyde. I hope his tenacity will serve as an example to pro-life elected officials for a long time to come.

The “exception”-al Pain-Capable Act photo photo

I just sent an email to my Member of Congress, asking him to support a piece of legislation that will probably come up in Washington late this afternoon: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s as flawed a life-issue bill as I’ll see this year in either Washington or Concord. Still, I hope it passes. And I definitely want to see who-votes-how. [Update, 5:45 p.m.: the measure passed, 242-184.]

In the absence of a clean up-or-down vote on late-term abortion, this bill is the next best thing. Don’t go looking in this bill for an affirmation of a right to life from conception to natural death; it ain’t there. This bill proposes restrictions on mid- and late-term abortions, not a ban. It doesn’t confer “personhood” and it doesn’t even apply to preborn children in the first half of pregnancy. It may or may not be good news to you that the bill poses no threat to Roe v. Wade. And still, I asked my congressman to vote Yea.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, speaking as a no-holds-barred supporter of the legislation:

“Limiting abortion at 5 months of pregnancy, as an unborn child becomes able to live outside the womb and as the abortion procedure becomes even more dangerous for women, is a commonsense law long overdue….[I]t deals directly with the ugly reality of abortion, which hurts both mother and child who are exposed to an industry willing to harm people for profit.”

Not so coincidentally, today is the second anniversary of the conviction of noted Philadelphia butcher Kermit Gosnell. Supporters of Pain-Capable see passage as a fitting way to mark the date. Earlier this year, the bill was scheduled for a vote on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, before it was sidetracked. (Nurse Jill Stanek has done all she can to make House Speaker John Boehner bring back the bill. Bound4Life has an interesting interview with her on the subject.)

A good – nay, great – provision in the bill: it calls on anyone terminating a post-20-week pregnancy to do so in a manner which “in reasonable medical judgment provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive,” consistent with the safety of the mother. No snipping, doctors.

And then there are a couple of sticky points that won’t go away.

Finer minds than mine came up with the title, which acknowledges how squeamish many people are about “terminating” a post-20-week preborn child who “reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human.” That’s from the text of the bill, in the Findings section. Great. Imposing pain except for therapeutic purposes (can I pop that dislocated shoulder back into place for you?) is to be avoided. The danger comes when that leads to the conclusion that anesthetizing the intended victim would be some kind of solution. Would that make abortion more palatable? How about anesthetizing people being subjected to forced sterilization or euthanasia? Would that make the procedures somehow all right, as long as no one feels pain? No. I recognize of course that the bill’s sponsors have no intention of going down that road.

There is also … wait for it … a rape-and-incest exception. The hashtag for the Twitterfest on this bill is #theyfeelpain. I almost want to counter with #theyfeelpaintoobutnevermind. The redoubtable Abby Johnson is simply using #NoExceptions.

Still, I’ve supported policies with such exceptions before, notably the Hyde Amendment. Did you realize that Hyde only restricts the use of federal Health and Human Services funds for abortion in certain government programs? Other federal funds are unaffected. Did you know that it’s not automatic, but has to be renewed each budget cycle? That it has those exceptions I mentioned? And still, I support it and I even want to see it expanded to cover more federal departments.

I’ve asked Congressman Guinta to support H.R. 36. He knows I’m watching.  How about you?