Many in the media raced to report on CPAC over the weekend. But one panel went largely unnoticed: a pro-life panel challenging today’s “anti-woman” abortion culture.
On February 27, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) hosted a panel exploring “Hard Questions for the Hard Cases: How to Defend Life.” The New York Post’s Kelly Jane Torrance moderated the panel featuring pro-life leaders Emily Berning, co-founder of Let Them Live, Alison Centofante, director of external affairs at Live Action, and Republican Rep. Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota. Together, they debunked the lies of the abortion industry, including the myth that women “need” abortion to succeed.
For her first question, Torrance wanted to know how to convince a non-religious person that he or she should be pro-life.
Rep. Fischbach stressed that “life is worth protecting.” And, she added, scientific advancements reveal “the humanity of the unborn.”
“When my children were born, you had those little grainy ultrasounds,” she said. “Now you’ve got the 4D and you can see if the baby’s smiling.”
Berning agreed that “the pro-life issue is not just a religious one.”
“Supporting women – supporting unborn children – it’s just something we should do as human beings,” she urged.
Centofante also pointed to science.
“There’s a heartbeat that starts at 21 days, it’s detectable at six weeks,” she said of the unborn child. “At the moment of conception, there is life. That is a unique, human DNA.”
Abortion, which she called “the intentional and direct killing” of an “innocent baby via starvation, dismemberment,” violates this precious life.
Torrance also asked the panelists to address the argument that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion if her pregnancy is deemed life-threatening.
Centofante said that there’s no need to “pick between mom and baby.”
“If a mother does find herself in a high-risk pregnancy,” she explained, “then if that baby needs to be separated from that mother, the answer, guys, is early delivery, early induction, or C-section.”
“If we do an early delivery or a C-section of a baby before viability, the odds are not great that the baby’s going to live,” she admitted. Still, “that is incredibly different than intentionally killing that child.”
“Always try and save them both,” she urged. “Moms do better when they have a chance to be with that child, see that child, and not end its life.”
In a follow-up question, Torrance asked about a situation where a doctor might tell a mother that her baby is going to be born with “serious disabilities or serious developmental issues” where he or she “will likely die very quickly” or “have a horrible, burdensome life.”
Instead of abortion, Centofante pointed mothers to perinatal and palliative care, or what she described as treating “the womb as a hospice.”
“You keep them comfortable, you eliminate pain, and you keep that pregnancy to go as far as you can,” she described. “Then if early delivery or natural delivery happens, you are able to take care of and provide comfort and be with that child.”
“These moms, these families do better when they can deliver that baby, hear their little voice, take pictures, imprint those feet, and remember them,” she concluded.
Torrance also asked about a case where a doctor might tell a pregnant woman that her “child’s going to have a miserable life” with Down syndrome or “some other disease that will keep them from having a fulfilled life.”
Berning wanted to know, “What is a fulfilled life?” That’s because, she said, “it’s no one person’s job to decide for another person if their life is fulfilled.”
Centofante pointed to her colleagues who have babies with Down syndrome.
“These people hit the same milestones that I hit,” she said, even if “it might take them a little bit longer.”
Torrance then asked about the people who say that if abortion becomes illegal, women will still obtain abortions – but that there “will just be many more unsafe abortions.”
Rep. Fischbach argued that “I would say abortion’s not safe now” for either the mother or her baby. She made the case that pro-lifers are the ones trying to pass legislation to make it safer – not abortion supporters.
“When I was in the Minnesota senate, I carried the clinic licensing bill” to license abortion clinics, she said, even as abortion supporters pushed back.
Centofante agreed that “abortion’s not safe” because “a person always dies and a woman is left harmed with countless complications.”
Torrance brought up another argument posed by abortion supporters who ask about young women or teenagers who get pregnant.
“They say this woman, this girl, is making a choice between getting an education and actually being able to take care of herself in life and being able to have that baby,” she prompted.
Berning stressed that “circumstances are temporary and abortion is permanent.”
At her organization, she hears women say, “I am not going to be able get an education and have this baby, I can’t afford my rent, I’m living in my car and I’m supposed to have this baby, I just can’t do it.’”
“It’s because we have this so anti-woman culture that’s saying, ‘If you have a baby, you can’t do anything...You have to kill your child to be successful,’” she warned.
Instead, her message to women is, “We are here for you. We support you. We are all surrounding you. We love you. And we love your baby,’” she encouraged. “And your circumstances right in this second, those temporary circumstances, do not define you as a mother and they do not define you as a person and we will help you get out of that so that you can make a life-affirming decision.”
Berning later stressed that “Women are strong enough to do what they want to do in life and have a child.” While the culture tells women, “No, you can’t,” she said, “we’re telling them, ‘Yes you can.’”