Forty-three years ago on January 22, the Supreme Court took the issue of abortion out of the people’s hands in order to impose its own view. It swept away the laws of all fifty states, inventing a right to abortion that could not be found in the Constitution.
Even many pro-choice legal scholars have criticized that decision, admitting that the Constitution clearly allows states to enact protections for the unborn. And so Friday’s March for Life is also a march for democracy: for the right to use democratic means to advance justice.
I applaud the marchers, and even more I applaud their noble cause.
I strongly believe that we should build a culture that respects the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
As president, I would move, through patient persuasion, toward protecting more and more unborn children from abortion. Many of my fellow citizens disagree with that goal, of course, but I think most Americans can agree that we should at least protect unborn children at 20 weeks of development, when they may be able to feel pain.
In an age when parents and grandparents post sonogram pictures of their unborn children to their Facebook pages, and modern medicine allows doctors to save premature babies born earlier than we ever thought imaginable, most people understand that these are young lives worthy of our protection. Nearly all European countries protect children at this late stage of development, and it is time we joined them.
I believe, as well, that taxpayers should not be the largest source of funding for the organization that performs the more abortions than any other entity in our country.
When I am president, we will reinstate the rule that family-planning money goes to organizations that do not perform abortions. Americans who oppose Planned Parenthood should not be forced to fund it.
I used persuasion and incremental change to build a culture of life in Florida. We banned partial-birth abortion and required parental notification before minors could have abortions. We forced abortion clinics to abide by basic health and safety standards for women.
We required that women considering abortions after their first trimesters be allowed to review ultrasound images.
We supported crisis pregnancy centers, so that pregnant women in difficult circumstances—too often lacking support from the fathers of their children—would have the material and emotional help they need. Some of the funding for these groups came from Florida’s “Choose Life” license plates: something I am proud to say I was the first governor to sign a law to allow. We ended Medicaid funding for abortion.
All of these measures faced serious opposition, but had strong public support. And they helped us bring the abortion rate in our state down twice as fast as the national average. Meanwhile we more than doubled the number of adoptions in our state. And I ensured that we defunded Planned Parenthood in our state, too.
On all these issues, Hillary Clinton has a different view. When Americans from both parties and both sides of the abortion debate came together to ban partial-birth abortion as a truly barbaric procedure unworthy of our country, she defended it. She said that the voters had no right to decide the issue.
Today she opposes banning late-term abortions, again siding with the most extreme advocates of abortion. It is a stance that has recently won her the endorsement of the two biggest supporters of unrestricted abortion in this country, Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
Her vow to keep taxpayer dollars flowing to organizations that perform abortions—a truly perverse example of cronyism—surely helped seal the deal. She says that government should not be involved in abortion, but she means the opposite: government must force all of us to finance it.
Government exists first and foremost to protect our rights and our lives. That’s the conservative philosophy. It’s also the philosophy of our Declaration of Independence, which declares that we have God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The order Jefferson chose was no accident. The right to life comes first because it is the most fundamental of our rights, the one without which we cannot enjoy the others.
Thousands of people are marching in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 22 because they understand that we must protect everyone, including the weakest and most vulnerable of all. They know that our country is better than abortion on demand.
That is why they will succeed. And it is why I am proud to stand with them.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a Republican candidate for president.