By Steve Scalise and Marjorie Dannenfelser
Fifty years ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson launched a "War on Poverty." Fifteen trillion dollars later, more Americans are in poverty than at any point in our nation's history. In fact, roughly one in three Americans lived in poverty for at least two months from 2009 to 2011. It hardly seems a coincidence that for 41 years of the failed big government war on poverty, abortion on demand has been the law of the land. Indeed, nearly half of all abortions are performed on women who fall below the federal poverty level.
The 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision and its companion, Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion on demand across America -- even up until the moment of birth. In its wake, more than 50 million babies have been killed.
Forty-one years of virtually limitless abortion has left an indelible scar on our nation. Only God knows what contributions to society could be made by the roughly 1.2 million unborn children now taken each year.
Finally, after four decades of darkness, the focus on unborn children is shining brighter. President Obama's health care overreach, the largest expansion of abortion on demand since Roe, spurred a pro-life resurgence of unrivaled proportions. In the wake of Obamacare, state legislatures have spearheaded an explosion of pro-life measures in recent years. In fact, more pro-life bills were passed from 2011 to 2013 than in the entire previous decade, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.
The legislative measures being passed at the state level will save the lives of unborn Americans, protect vulnerable women, and strengthen our moral respect for life at every stage. They are also supported by large majorities of citizens: 69 percent support having a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, 71 percent support requiring parental consent for minors to undergo abortion, 64 percent support banning partial-birth abortions, 87 percent support requiring informed consent about physical and mental health risks of abortion, and 77 percent support banning sex-selective abortion.
Numerous recent national polls highlight growing momentum towards success at the federal level. Surveys show that Americans support making abortion illegal during the second trimester, and even more support banning late-term abortion during the third trimester. The time is right to pass legislation protecting unborn children beyond 20 weeks --more than halfway through pregnancy -- and the point at which scientific research shows the child can feel pain.
Thirteen states and the U.S. House of Representatives (by a bipartisan vote of 228-196) have passed new fetal pain legislation. A companion bill introduced in the Senate already has 40 co-sponsors, but still has not been scheduled for a vote. It's time for action.
The importance of the individual in the success of a free society cannot be overstated. A lack of respect for the individual transcends both the abortion and the poverty debates in America.
For more than 40 years, government has gotten it wrong. Rather than investing in individuals, the government invested in Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion business
Both then and now, the abortion lobby has based the "right to choose" on the assertion that children would be a hindrance to a woman -- and a society -- seeking progress and development. We know that, in fact, the opposite is true. Similarly, those in charge of the big government war on poverty chose to give a man a fish, rather than teaching him how to fish, too often condemning him to a life of dependency. Both approaches destroy the most precious resource there is -- an individual valued and empowered to succeed. Whereas government sees the poor and unborn en masse, as nameless, faceless projects to be fixed, we see individuals -- unique beings with skills, talents, and above all, intrinsic dignity.
Fifty years later, the war on poverty still isn't won. Forty-one years later, the pro-life momentum, symptomatic of the continued unrest felt in the hearts and minds of Americans nationwide, tells us that Roe v. Wade is not settled law. The answer to both problems lies in the same place -- revaluing human worth and respecting the most vulnerable among us.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana is chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List.