As Joe Biden’s presidency begins, Donald Trump’s presidency has come under even greater scrutiny. His administration’s record on life issues is no exception. Hillary Clinton and others are claiming that Democratic presidents are just as good as, if not better than Republicans on life issues. Although it is true that abortion numbers reportedly declined during Barack Obama’s presidency and increased slightly between 2017 and 2018 under Trump, it would be incorrect to attribute the decrease or increase to either president. Correlation does not equal causation. These numbers in isolation should not be taken as an indication that we should expect the Biden administration to be just as (or more) pro-life as the Trump administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision (1973) made abortion through all nine months of pregnancy the legal default unless Congress or individual states passed laws restricting it. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court adjusted its previous decision to say that a state cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s attempt to obtain an abortion pre-viability. As a result of these two decisions, state law—not presidents—have the greatest influence over whether abortion numbers rise or fall in a given year.
Even though state laws have the greatest effect on abortion numbers, pro-life presidents still make a huge difference. President Biden will likely reverse many of the Trump administration’s pro-life policies, but the 200 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices—many with proven pro-life records—that Trump appointed during his presidency will be serving on the bench for years to come. Planned Parenthood’s website states, “For the Supreme Court, Trump delivered on his promise to nominate justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade.”
The impact of these judicial appointments cannot be overstated. As Michael New pointed out, if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, state laws that protect the unborn—including six heartbeat bills that would prevent abortion after six weeks and an Alabama law that would ban nearly all abortions—would immediately go into effect, saving thousands of unborn children’s lives. Federal judges with a proven originalist track record have a far greater chance of upholding pro-life legislation than any Democratic appointees. These judges are appointed for life, and so, while the number of abortions may have slightly increased from 2017 to 2018, the impact of these judges will last far beyond the Trump administration—just ask Planned Parenthood.
Although the Trump administration was unable to fully defund Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars, it did finalize the Protect Life Rule and redirected millions of federal Title X family planning funds away from abortion businesses. President Biden is expected to reverse this. The Trump administration also supported the historically bipartisan Hyde Amendment, which ensures that American taxpayer dollars do not pay for abortions domestically. Hyde is credited with saving over two million lives. For the first time since Hyde was voted on in 1976, President Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress are expected to try to remove it.
President Trump took executive action to reinstate and expand the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy, which prevented American taxpayers from being forced to fund abortions internationally. President Trump also issued an Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children, which states that babies born alive after an abortion must be given the same level of medical treatment afforded to other children born alive at the same gestational age. President Biden is expected to reverse both of these actions. Pray that he does not.
Our faith tells us, “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). Let’s pray for the seemingly impossible—that President Biden will have a change of heart and that his administration will be as pro-life as Trump’s. This would be the opposite of everything we expect, but it would be a welcome surprise for all those who value life.