An anti-abortion panel at CPAC this afternoon was clearly gunning for a spot on the main stage next year. Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, and Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, made the case that their movement is winning and that they can fill a room with activists.
Dannenfelser started the discussion by declaring that "abortion-centered feminism is dead."
The three credited their carefully formulated, incremental strategy that has brought them a slew of state-level victories cutting back on abortion access and pushing narrowly-tailored abortion bans meant to push back on Roe v. Wade in the courts while winning public opinion to their side.
Dannenfelser put her hope in so called "pain-capable" abortion bans which, based on questionable science, ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a calculated attack on Roe. Since Nebraska passed such a ban in 2010, 11 other states have followed suit. The House postponed a vote on a national version of the ban after Republican women and moderates protested language in a rape exception. (SBA List had reportedly worked to insert the problematic reporting requirement language into the bill's rape exception.)
Dannenfelser, acknowledging that the 2003 "partial-birth" abortion ban -- which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 -- barred a specific procedure rather than curtailing any actual abortions, said that the national passage of a 20-week ban would be "the most important moment in the pro-life movement since 1973."
Yoest focused on her group's strategy of regulating abortion providers out of existence, pointing to Texas's harsh anti-choice law, which could close nearly half the abortion providers in the state, as a success story. Yoest framed it differently: "The reason clinics are closing is because they refuse to provide decent services to women."
All three groups — in contrast to the all-or-nothing "personhood" movement — sing the praises of incremental victories. St. Martin, in a barely veiled dig at the personhood movement, repeatedly said that "the perfect is the enemy of the good." Yoest used a football analogy to describe her group's strategy in advancing "yard by yard by yard" to the total criminalization of abortion.
"Be encouraged, guys, we are making progress," she said. "We are marching down the field."
Correction: This post has been edited to correct the date that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed. It was signed into law in 2003 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007.