Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Sen. Sasse.
The anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a natural time to reflect on the country’s view of abortion, a topic on which we are having an ongoing, heartfelt, and still unresolved debate. For thousands of mothers and fathers, grandparents and siblings, abortion has taken a life, broken a family, and left a scar. Because of these losses, many Americans have reevaluated their perspective on this sensitive yet profound issue.
As science improves our understanding, we can now clearly acknowledge the small fingers, toes, beating heart, functioning nervous system, and unique DNA of the child within the womb. Our evaluation has embraced science, children, and the future of our culture.
In November 2014, the American people elected a new Senate majority for many reasons. Voters wanted to curb our growing debt, reinvigorate the stagnant economy, and strengthen our national security. Americans also elected a Senate that strongly believes in the value of each vulnerable, unborn child.
This summer, the nation was shocked by the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of body parts from aborted babies. Even many citizens who believe abortion should be legal found it deeply disturbing to see medical personnel callously rummaging through the severed limbs of unborn babies that were sold for a price. Even Americans outside the pro-life community began to ask whether taxpayers should be forced to contribute to private organizations that engage in this type of behavior. The videos hit a nerve. We responded with a bill to redirect Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding to the thousands of women’s health-care services at community health centers across the nation.
Unfortunately, on August 3, 2015, the final tally showed that while we had a majority of support from Republican and Democratic senators, we came up five votes short of the required three-fifths (60 out of 100) needed to open debate in the Senate.
Although the bill couldn’t withstand Democratic opposition, it was an encouraging reminder of how far the pro-life movement has come. Back in 2011, another vote to remove funding from Planned Parenthood was brought to the floor amid a contentious budget fight. That vote fell a whopping 18 votes shy (42–58) of the required 60-vote threshold. That means that since 2011, the Senate has seen a 13-vote swing — 13 more votes in favor of protecting of all life.
This winter, we were successful in passing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and put the issue on President Obama’s desk; we did this through a process known as budget reconciliation, which is one of the handful of bills that can move through the Senate with only a simple majority of 51 votes. We grieve that the president chose to veto this legislation and protect the abortion lobby, at the expense of millions of vulnerable unborn children.
Despite these losses, we demonstrated that, with an authentically pro-life president in the White House, this Senate could remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood or any other organization that profits off of the death of unborn children.
We have come a long way in a relatively short time. During the eight years between 2007 and 2014, the 110th through 113th Congresses saw a stark difference between efforts to devalue human life versus those to protect it.
In previous years, the Senate had attempted to overturn the long-standing pro-life Mexico City policy, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to organizations that promote abortion overseas. Some had also advocated for the falsely named “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act” in order to force faith-based employers to violate their conscience and provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. Indeed, there is a stark difference between the current and previous Senates on the issue of life.
Politics has followed the culture. In a May 29, 2015, Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans said they wanted all or most abortions made illegal. We’re both dads and new U.S. senators, and we’re grateful to watch the rising generation become more pro-life than the one before — to hear from and work with millions of Americans who believe that every life is worth protecting.
The pro-life community continues to make significant progress. Momentum is on the side of life. Science is on our side. Hope is on our side.
While we grapple with the political fights in Washington, D.C., we’re grateful for every life-affirming, hope-filled, nonpolitical conversation Americans have around family dinner tables, during work hours, and in casual conversations with friends. We’re grateful for the counselors and advocates who compassionately serve women who are facing the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy.
None of these issues are simple in real life, but technological advancements have opened the eyes of millions of people to what life really looks like before birth and what happens every day to children in Planned Parenthood facilities across the country. Science continues to affirm that a pregnancy is a child in the womb, not a meaningless blob of tissue.
Earlier this month, the president used his State of the Union address to make a plea: “Our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. . . . To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.”
Millions of Americans believe that unborn children are the weakest among us. On Friday, many will stand up for the vulnerable at the annual March for Life in D.C. We are honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who speak up for life.
— James Lankford is the junior senator from Oklahoma. Ben Sasse is the junior senator from Nebraska.