WASHINGTON — The Republican National Convention this week prominently featured the message that life begins at conception and that abortion is the taking of that innocent human life in the womb.
At an RNC with perhaps the most vocal pro-life message ever, speakers discussed the medical realities of abortion and spoke out against late-term abortion.
And the week culminated in a pro-life message from President Donald Trump, who made the abortion issue a part of his speech on Thursday evening while accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency. “Tonight,” he said, “we proudly declare that all children, born and unborn, have a God-given right to life.”
The president also called out the Democrats’ embrace of late-term, taxpayer-funded abortion. He said Joe Biden “claims he has empathy for the vulnerable — yet the party he leads supports the extreme late-term abortion of defenseless babies right up to the moment of birth. They have no problem with stopping a baby's beating heart in the ninth month of pregnancy."
In fact, focusing on the support for late-term abortion from Biden and the Democrats was a theme throughout the convention and was mentioned by Vice President Mike Pence, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and others.
Sister Deirdre Byrne, a surgeon, retired Army officer and missionary who is now a religious sister with the Community of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, was another speaker who referenced the Democrats’ late-term abortion stance. Sister Deirdre said that President Trump “will stand up against Biden-Harris, who are the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide.”
“The truth is the largest marginalized group can be found here in the United States,” Sister Deirdre said. “They are the unborn. As Christians, we first met Jesus as a stirring embryo in the womb of an unwed mother and saw him born nine months later in the poverty of the cave.” She added: “As a physician I can say without hesitation: Life begins at conception.”
Many in the mainstream media targeted Sister Deirdre’s statement about Biden’s stance on late-term abortion. NPR said it was “not true” because “Biden has not explicitly expressed support for late-term abortions. He wants to codify Roe v. Wade and reup federal funding for Planned Parenthood.” The Washington Post made a similar “fact check” of Sister Deirdre’s claim, saying that Biden “does not” support late-term abortion and infanticide.
However, a fact check confirmed that Biden “believes in the standard laid out by Roe and Casey,” which the fact check itself acknowledged permits some late-term abortions, saying that while “most abortions are performed in the earlier stages of pregnancy” about “1% happen after the fetus reaches the point of viability.”
Former Abortion Worker’s Voice
While Sister Deirdre referenced the science of life at conception, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood business director-turned-pro-life speaker, described Tuesday her conversion to the pro-life movement after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion.
Johnson described seeing “an unborn baby fighting back, desperate to move away from the suction. I’ll never forget what the doctor said next: ‘Beam me up, Scottie.’ The next thing I saw was a spine twirling around in the mother’s womb before succumbing to the force of the suction.”
She said that people don’t realize the “barbarity” of abortion and “don’t know about the products-of-conception room in abortion clinics, where infant corpses are pieced back together to ensure nothing remains in the mothers’ wombs; or that we joked and called it ‘the pieces-of-children room.’” For her, she related, “Abortion is real. I know what it sounds like. I know what abortion smells like. Did you know abortion even had a smell?”
Johnson said that President Trump “has done more for the unborn than any other president” and concluded that “life is a core tenet of who we are as Americans, and this election is a choice between two, radical anti-life activists and the most pro-life president we have ever had.”
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a pro-life physician and policy adviser for The Catholic Association, told the Register of Johnson’s speech that “Abby Johnson spoke as one who has witnessed firsthand the violence and tragedy of abortion. As a radiologist who regularly sees 13-week-old babies via ultrasound, I can say that, although small, he or she has all of his or her perfectly recognizable parts and organs: head, face, limbs, spine, liver, stomach, even sex organs. The destruction of such a tiny human being would leave a deep and lasting impression on anyone involved.”
Just prior to and following her speech, Johnson’s account of abortion was scrutinized by the media. However, even within these articles, details of her description of abortion were confirmed. Washington Post style columnist Monica Hesse acknowledged that Johnson’s claim “that doctors piece together fetal remains to make sure the abortion is complete — that’s true.” But, she added, “it’s not some ghoulish jigsaw puzzle done on a lark. It’s because an incomplete abortion could be dangerous to a patient’s health, and abortion doctors care about women’s lives.”
The New York Times also attempted to label part of Johnson’s speech “misleading” — and ended up confirming another disturbing element of her account.
Regarding her story of an unborn baby “desperate to move away from the suction,” they noted that “medical experts say that a fetus at that stage of gestation could respond reflexively to a foreign object, consistent with what Ms. Johnson described, but that it would not be able to feel pain until much later in the pregnancy.”
However, Johnson had not made any claims about whether or not the 13-week-old unborn baby could feel pain; she simply stated her horror at observing that the baby moved away from the suction that would remove it from its mother’s womb and stop its small heart.
The convention also featured a mother’s perspective. Tera Myers, a school-choice advocate, spoke passionately Wednesday about her son Samuel, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb.
“Before Samuel was even born,” she said, “I was told his life wouldn’t be worth living. When early tests revealed he had Down syndrome, our doctor encouraged me to terminate the pregnancy. He said, ‘If you do not, you will be burdening your life, your family and your community.’ I knew my baby was a human being created by God and that made him worthy of life. I am thankful that President Trump values the life of the unborn.”
Myers’ comments about the doctor recommending abortion after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome likely struck home for many. Columns in The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC News have made the case, similar to the doctor in Myers’ story, that not everyone can handle the emotional and financial cost of parenting a child with disabilities. This is something that parents of these special children, like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., have found highly offensive.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas warned last year of “eugenic abortions,” stating that “with today’s prenatal screening tests and other technologies, abortion can easily be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics.” He referenced the high rates of abortion for babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome, including in the United States, where the estimated abortion rate is 67% after such a diagnosis.
The Second-Term Agenda
Whereas the RNC speakers described abortion, expressed concerns about late-term abortion extremism, and the problem of unborn babies with disabilities being targeted for abortion, the abortion issue was not mentioned by the speakers at the DNC last week. However, the DNC platform prompted protests from pro-lifers due to its backing of taxpayer-funded abortion without restrictions.
For its part, the RNC opted against devising a 2020 platform, instead renewing its 2016 platform that stated “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed,” opposed “the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion” and called on Congress to “ban sex-selection abortions and abortions based on disabilities — discrimination in its most lethal form.”
In addition to renewing the platform, the RNC backed Trump’s 50-point second-term agenda, which featured “core priorities” for the administration but did not contain any mention of abortion. The Trump campaign did not directly address why abortion was omitted from the agenda.
However, Trump campaign Assistant Press Secretary Sarah Hasse told the Register that “while Joe Biden and Kamala Harris hope to mandate taxpayer-funded abortions, President Trump is standing up for the lives of the unborn. President Trump is the most pro-life president in the history of our great nation, and Catholics across the country need four more years of this president protecting our religious freedoms and staunchly defending those who cannot defend themselves.”
RNC Deputy Communications Director Cassie Smedile told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly this week that she couldn’t speak to the “policy decisions” regarding the omission of abortion in the agenda, but that “the president was outlining what he thought he could do that was attainable right in the moment with the circumstances that we have because, with House Democrats in the majority, we’re no longer talking about people who are just left of center on an issue; these people are all the way far left … so we’ve got to make sure that we are getting the right people in Congress to help propel the administration’s priorities.”
Response From Pro-Life Leaders
Pro-life leaders had plenty of praise this week for the way the issue was highlighted at the RNC.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who also serves as national co-chair of Pro-Life Voices for Trump, commented that “President Trump’s speech marks the pinnacle of the most explicitly pro-life Republican convention ever. While Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and other leading Democrats downplay their radical and deeply unpopular agenda, President Trump and Vice President Pence continually call out the Democrats for supporting abortion on demand through birth and even infanticide, paid for by taxpayers.”
Dannenfelser said that, in “stark contrast to the Democrats, who were too afraid to even utter the word ‘abortion’ during four days of national television coverage, they are using their platform to promote a multitude of diverse pro-life voices. Thanks to the extraordinary leadership of our pro-life president and vice president, Republicans are unified and energized on this issue like never before and life is truly winning in America.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said in a statement that “President Trump has supported policies that defend the most vulnerable among us. The administration issued the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy, which prevents our taxes from funding abortions overseas, and also redirected Title X funding away from domestic abortion businesses. In a historic move, President Trump even showed his commitment to the pro-life cause by speaking at the 2020 March for Life Rally.”
“President Trump and Vice President Pence have earned their status as heroes to the pro-life movement,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee said in a statement. “We are grateful for their firm belief in the right to life and their courage, stamina, and commitment on behalf of our nation’s most vulnerable.”
She said that the RNC’s pro-life speakers “showed once again that the Democratic Party’s platform of abortion on demand, at anytime, anywhere and for any reason appalls everyday Americans.”
Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.