WASHINGTON (BP)–He disagrees with a 36-year-old decision of the Supreme Court. He is far out of step with his own party. Yet, Lincoln Davis still believes he has a way of eliminating most abortions.
The fourth-term congressman from Tennessee is leading the effort in the House of Representatives to enact legislation with the goal of reducing the number of abortions in America by 95 percent in 10 years. His Pregnant Women Support Act takes a multifaceted approach to the challenge by seeking to provide those in crisis pregnancies with information on their unborn child and their options, as well as to offer various forms of assistance.
A Southern Baptist, Davis does this while legislating under an abortion-on-demand regime instituted by the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and within a Democratic Party dominated by advocates for abortion rights.
“[I] am going to do all I can to reduce the numbers [of abortions] that we can,” Davis told Baptist Press in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. “If we can repeal Roe v. Wade, I’m fine with that.
“I think Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, but it is the law of the land. And we see people take both sides, on the left and the right, the choice and the pro-life folks. And they get embittered and embattled with it.”
The Pregnant Women Support Act (PWSA) is an attempt to overcome that divisiveness. In order to reduce abortions, Davis hopes to gain the support of ardent pro-lifers in both parties and of those who have less of a commitment to legal protection for the unborn. Of the 34 cosponsors of his bill, which is H.R. 2035 in the House of Representatives, 22 are Democrats. Among the dozen Republican cosponsors is New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, likely the leading advocate for the unborn in the House.
“I don’t think advocates of an unborn child … should follow a political agenda, Democrat or Republican,” Davis said.
He has some hope President Obama will endorse his legislation. The president has talked about reducing the need for abortion and has made that a responsibility of the restructured White House faith-based office, though he also has reversed some significant pro-life policies and indicated he would like to repeal some others since taking office.
The president “is aware that some of us are serious about reducing abortion,” Davis said.
The strongly pro-life Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) urged Obama immediately after his election to endorse PWSA. On Nov 5, ERLC President Richard Land asked the newly elected president to place his “full and vigorous support behind” the bill.
Among its proposals, PWSA would:
— Require abortion providers to obtain informed consent from women before performing abortions.
— Approve the issuance of grants to health centers for the purchase and use of ultrasound equipment.
— Establish a toll-free phone number to direct women to organizations that will provide support during and after their pregnancies.
— Create programs to assist pregnant and parenting high school and college students so they can complete their schooling.
— Eliminate pregnancy as a pre-existing condition in the health insurance industry, thereby providing prenatal and postnatal care for women.
— Codify a rule providing coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income pregnant women and unborn children.
“Our churches need to become involved. … [W]e talk about that more from the standpoint of the wrongness of [abortion] than from trying to prevent it,” Davis said. “At least give hope to a young lady who may think that she’s in a distressed situation.”
Davis said he has believed life begins at conception since reading Jeremiah 1:5, which says in part, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.”
Davis’ pro-life mindset is reflected in how he talks about his family. “I have five children. I have three girls that are living,” he said.
Lynda, his wife of 45 years, had two miscarriages, losing a child about three months into pregnancy and another at about two months. He knows he will meet those children someday, Davis said. “[I] really believe that each of those two children [has] a soul that God has taken care of,” the grandfather of five said.
Since taking office in 2003, Davis has gained recognition as a pro-life leader among Democrats. His voting record in the 2003-04 and 2005-06 congressional sessions was 100 percent, according to the National Right to Life Committee’s evaluation. His pro-life record in the 2007-08 Congress was 83 percent, but Smith’s was only 85 percent — the result in both cases of their support of a Medicare prescription bill the committee opposed because it determined the measure would prevent the elderly from spending their own money on drugs.
In March, Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) named Davis as its inaugural Pro-life Democrat of the Week.
Davis says he becomes “a little uneasy when I hear folks say the Democrat Party is an abortion party.”
The reason? Republican nominees were in the majority on the Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade was decided and have been ever since. Yet, Roe continues in force.
“I have hopes that both Republicans will quit being hypocrites and Democrats will become more pro-life,” Davis said.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.