WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress’ most passionate advocate for unborn children has a short-term and a long-term assessment of his cause: He is “optimistic but realistic” at the start of a new legislative session, and he is “very optimistic” about the future of the pro-life movement.
First elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., leads a pro-life caucus that was greatly strengthened by the November election in a House of Representatives that now has a pro-life speaker. His No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3) — along with repeal of the 2010 health-care law that authorizes subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion — tops the pro-life agenda in this Congress.
He told Baptist Press it will be difficult to enact such legislation in this Congress, given the support for abortion rights in the Senate and White House. He says, however, pro-lifers “will just stay at this until the taxpayer is no longer subsidizing this bigotry and this violence against children.”
Smith, who also has long been an outspoken advocate for overseas victims of religious persecution and other human rights abuses, said he “would welcome a nationwide, honest debate on the abortion issue,” because it “has never really happened.”
After nearly four decades in the movement, Smith said success for pro-lifers “all comes down to prayer, hard work but smart work, fasting,” as well as “real love” for abortion advocates and the “grace of God.”
Baptist Press interviewed Smith Jan. 6, the day after he was sworn in for his 16th House term. Here is an edited transcript:
Baptist Press: After the last two years and the change of the election, an increased pro-life contingent this year, what’s your attitude going into this Congress?
Smith: Optimistic but realistic. Arguably, this is the most pro-life House that we’ve ever had, and we have very smart and capable lawmakers who now have joined our ranks. … But we still have a Democrat-controlled Senate and all the chairmanships that they control, and we still have the abortion president down Pennsylvania Avenue. Having said that, this needs to be the game-changer for the life issue. You know, you never want to put all your eggs in one basket, but we have to be thinking, “It’s time for America to re-enfranchise the unborn child.” … The abortionists have gotten away for decades with what is prejudice, acceptable bigotry … bigotry against the unborn child — taking an unmistakable member of the human race, boy or girl, but because of their dependency and immaturity, calling them persona non grata and violently destroying them. We need to utilize the language of bigotry and prejudice that is inherent in this animosity toward the unborn child. Now for individual mothers who are pregnant and distressed about it, I always have believed, and believe it passionately, that they’re co-victims, that there’s a tremendous pressure, at times coercion. … [T]here’s no doubt in my mind [of] the heavy handedness of boyfriend, peer pressure, parents even and societal pressures that push a woman or a young girl into abortion. They are co-victims. But my point is that this Congress needs to begin looking at this acceptable bigotry, because it is totally and absolutely unacceptable. … It’s violence against mothers. It’s violence against children. … [T]his is the acceptable bigotry that can no longer be acceptable. In terms of legislation, we’ll push very hard on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. I believe we will be able to pass it in the House, and we will not leave a stone unturned in trying to get it passed in the Senate despite the obstacles there. … [W]e will just stay at this until the taxpayer is no longer subsidizing this bigotry and this violence against children. And so I’m optimistic that some of the very dangerous bills and policies are not going to see the light of day. And frankly, that’s a huge victory. … [A]ll the other [pro-life] riders [except the Dornan Amendment banning funding of abortions in the District of Columbia], they have continued, I would say miraculously, given the numbers that [abortion rights supporters] had in the [last] House and Senate. And I’m really encouraged by that. … We can now seek to do more, knowing that some of it will be a process, that we continue [to hold] the House and hopefully take the Senate and presidency. This is the first big step in a two-step process.
Baptist Press: Given the odds you faced and the other pro-lifers faced two years ago, looking back — and you referred to this just now — are you surprised that they didn’t make more progress?
Smith: Well, I look at it two ways. One, they have done unspeakable damage to the developing world through the promotion of abortion by the Obama administration. They have hijacked the laudable and very noble effort at primary health care — the PEPFAR program [which focused in the last decade on combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Africa, under President Bush] is in the process of being hijacked by this administration to funnel money into Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes and all the other pro-abortion groups for like-minded groups being set up as sister groups in developing countries. [Obama] raised population control funding by 50 percent. This is a population-control zealot in the White House and at [the State Department] in Hillary Clinton, who is in awe of [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger. … Huge damage has been done in the developing world. … I look back with great sadness over what we’ve done to unborn children in developing countries and to their mothers and to the whole culture of life. I mean, Africa and Latin America [are] very pro-life, and in comes the ugly American policy makers — because certainly Americans aren’t ugly, we are a pro-life country, but the policy makers bring a contempt for innocent life that they expect to be dutifully replicated in each of these countries. … I am chairing now the Human Rights, Africa, Global Rights [subcommittee], and we will spend an enormous amount of time trying to defend life overseas. … In terms of the riders [pro-life amendments in spending bills that primarily bar funds for abortion and destructive embryo research], I’m grateful to God and all those members of the House and the Senate who worked so diligently to ensure that these very important policies were not jettisoned. Of course, Obama did some himself, where we didn’t have an existing statute, like the Mexico City Policy. So the pro-abortion groups are unfettered in their effort to promote abortion. The U.N. Population Fund, which continues to aid and abet crimes against humanity in China, now courtesy of U.S. funding — $50 million per year. … There’s been huge damage done by the abortion president, and that’s reason for deep sorrow. But the optimism comes that we can mitigate — we may not stop on the short term — but mitigate the damage being done by the abortion president and by his administration, because they’re obsessed with promoting the destruction of human life.
Baptist Press: We’re nearing the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision [Jan. 22]. What’s your assessment of the pro-life cause at this point? [Editor’s note: the interview took place before the anniversary.]
Smith: Frankly, the pro-life cause … has never been stronger, never been wiser or as focused. It is a movement that has matured magnificently over the years. And the different aspects that we see: The pregnancy care centers, which were there right from the beginning … helping women every day of the week, an unheralded but front-line expression of love and compassion that is beyond words, that has gotten stronger. The young people are stronger and more pro-life. … I can see it when I go to high schools. I used to be jeered out of the auditorium on the abortion issue, and that would be the only word in the ’80s. It began changing. I saw it in the ’90s. In the last 10 years it has changed remarkably. There’s still people who advocate abortion, obviously, in high schools, but it has flipped in our favor. And there’s the legislative approach. The states have done magnificent things. … Pro-lifers in the states have been tireless in their efforts to protect life. There are a lot of kids who are alive today and mothers who were [spared] abortions because of state legislative action. … So I’m very optimistic.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.