Two weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of joining as many as 100,000+ Americans in one of the largest – yet hardly covered – events in the country. A paramount feature of the pro-life movement is the annual March for Life, when family-focused, God-fearing Americans make their way to Washington, D.C. with a clear message: life matters. This year’s rally made a triumphant, in-person return after it was moved online in 2021.
The March for Life sets the tone for pro-life advocates each year. Attendees often leave the March with a renewed momentum, returning to our local communities to create a desperately needed voice for the voiceless: the unborn. This is especially important as we begin 2022, ahead of what’s expected to be a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling later this year on abortion. The ruling will likely set legal precedent on the issue for generations to come. Now, more than ever, we must make our voices heard.
In December, the Supreme Court heard the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy – when some scientists and scholars now believe the fetus reaches a point of viability – but would still permit them in medical emergencies. During those hearings, Chief Justice John Roberts offered a sobering question: “If it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?”
That’s a question I encourage everyone to consider because, to me, the answer is simple: life begins at conception.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 629,898 legally induced abortions in 2019, which is the latest year data is available. This issue should not be about politics. This is about defending the right to life. All life, both that of the born and of the unborn, is worthy of our protection.
I’ve led on pro-life and family issues since I started in Congress in 2011. In 2021, I introduced the Heartbeat Protection Act, which would prohibit abortions when an unborn child’s heartbeat is detected. The bill requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. Additionally, any physician who performs an abortion without checking for a heartbeat or aborts a child with a detected heartbeat would be subject to criminal penalties. This restriction would not apply to abortions that are necessary to save the life of the mother.
Late last year, I also led a series of inquiries calling for transparency and accountability into the National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.) after recent allegations that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center used taxpayer money funneled through the N.I.H. to promote illegal abortions. There is a longstanding principle in Congress that federal taxpayer dollars shall not be used for abortion procedures. I think it should stay that way.
When I discuss my pro-life stance with constituents, I’m often asked: what are the alternatives for women seeking an abortion? Among the options includes one word: adoption.
One of the great American values our Founding Fathers bestowed upon us is the right to life, and one of the greatest joys a family can have is a child. In 2021, I co-sponsored the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act. This bill makes the current adoption tax credit fully refundable to help make adoption an option for lower- and middle-income families. The bill also removes barriers for adoption for the more than 20,000 youth who age out of the foster care system annually.
I believe the pro-life movement is not just about protecting life. It’s also about promoting strong families.
We hear conflicting messages of the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. In December, during the Dobbs arguments, protesters outside the Supreme Court held signs signaling how abortion is freedom for women. But at the March for Life, you will see a stark contrast telling the other side of the story: women holding signs saying they regret their abortion. You can find those at the March for Life at almost every turn.
Like many of us, these women have heard the message that abortion is freedom only to later discover that the decision often carries years, if not decades, of pain, trauma, and guilt. It’s a difficult reality that so many women experience but whose stories we rarely hear. However, those who struggle with this should know that forgiveness and grace – for yourself and others – will help heal those emotional wounds.
Now, in 2022, we have an opportunity to fully acknowledge those stories and work to protect the lives of both mother and child. This year may be when the pro-life movement achieves its greatest success in the last half-century. But the movement does not stop with the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling. It continues forward with all of us respecting the right to life for all Americans, including, and especially, the unborn.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is a Republican representing Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District, a member of the Ways & Means Committee, and a proud member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.