Trump and Pence give anti-abortion groups just what they always wanted


They've done more than the anti-abortion movement could have ever dreamed of.

Thanks to the election of both Donald Trump and Mike Pence, conservative anti-abortion groups have a direct pipeline to the presidency. And they've made the most of it, using that proximity to enact policy changes that radically diminish reproductive health care options.

Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said that it spent $18 million during the 2016 election to "to defeat Hillary Clinton and maintain a pro-life Senate." Well before that, however, they were donating money and purchasing ad buys to back Mike Pence's anti-Planned Parenthood agenda when he was in the House of Representatives. And when Donald Trump and Pence got elected, the anti-abortion lobby found itself in an excellent position to exert their influence and get some of their long-desired policies enacted, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and shifting that money to crisis pregnancy centers.

Unlike Planned Parenthood, which provides comprehensive reproductive health care, crisis pregnancy centers, including organizations like Obria, refuse to provide any birth control at all — including condoms — and spread misinformation about medical abortions.

Of course, this administration was primed to align itself with crisis pregnancy centers, even without the millions SBA List spent on the effort. Mike Pence has based his entire political career on defunding Planned Parenthood and shifting that funding to nonmedical anti-abortion organizations. As a congressman, he introduced bill after bill after bill trying to block Planned Parenthood funding. He even said he'd be willing to shut down the government over it.

Then Pence and Trump got elected, and Pence didn't even have to introduce a law to gut Planned Parenthood funding. Instead, Trump expanded the "gag rule" to bar Title X federal funds going to any organization that even discussed abortion with its patients. Planned Parenthood was forced to withdraw from the Title X program, freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars to go to crisis pregnancy centers. This is exactly what Pence did while he was governor of Indiana when he shifted millions of dollars from a program designed to help the state's poorest residents to a chain of crisis pregnancy centers.

In a 2018 report, SBA List bragged about these centers serving 2 million people in 2017. The group alleges that these centers somehow saved $161 million in health care costs. The centers provide little to no health care, but anti-abortion organizations are now going to receive millions more in government funding.

The process has already begun. Obria, which targets millennials with its so-called "telemedicine" app, has received $1.7 million in federal funds and is eligible for an additional $3.4 million over the next two years. And given that the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Diane Foley, is a former operator of two crisis pregnancy centers, you can expect to see much more money flowing to these fake clinics.

This outcome is something that SBA List has been dreaming about for years, and now the administration and SBA are fully aligned. Indeed, in 2018 Pence spoke at the Susan B. Anthony List & Life Issues Institute Luncheon and declared that "life is winning" because of crisis pregnancy centers.

And that's not the only high-profile appearance Pence has made in support of the anti-abortion lobby. Both Trump and Pence spoke at the 2019 March for Life. The March for Life is one of the anti-abortion lobby's signature events. The hardline anti-abortion group Students for Life of America funds bus rides for students to attend the march and stay overnight in Washington, D.C. They also hand out thousands of signs at the march and create a planning guide to help student groups attend.

Those efforts over the years have paid off, as this administration has done much more than defund Planned Parenthood and attend anti-abortion events. Trump has appointed anti-abortion hardliners like Robert Severino to high-level agency positions. Severino, now the director of civil rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, has compared the actions of people who support abortion to the action of Nazis during the Holocaust. Trump's original Cabinet — though many have already left — was the most anti-abortion in history. It included people like former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said he wants to see Roe v. Wade in the "ash heap of history." Original Labor Department Secretary Andrew Puzder wrote the restrictive Missouri anti-abortion law upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1989. Trump has also named unqualified judges who support abortion to the federal courts.

Groups like SBA List and Students for Life have long tried to extend their reach and influence over the Republican Party, and with the Trump administration, they have finally succeeded.