On Thursday, February 28, 2019, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser spoke at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland. Her remarks focused on the dignity of the human person as part of #CPAC2019’s theme, “What Makes America Great.”
Dannenfelser’s speech at CPAC comes amid outrage sparked by efforts in New York, Virginia, Vermont, and New Mexico to legalize abortion on demand through birth, while Democrats in Congress have repeatedly blocked the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, popular legislation to protect babies born alive in failed abortions.
Watch Dannenfelser’s Speech
Transcript of Dannenfelser’s speech
SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser
Conservative Political Action Conference, February 28, 2019
Senator Mike Lee promised an interpretive dance and I did not see it. I think he was struggling over what to do with separation of powers and what that might look like on stage here. Maybe next time.
I’m honored to be with you to kick off the premier gathering of grassroots conservative activists in America. And, wow, have we grown since I was here in college. Good job, Matt and Dan, this crew is amazing.
You know, it’s providential that the first CPAC was held during one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history: the January after Roe v. Wade, which was an affront to founding principles and human dignity we’ve endured for 46 years.
America is more than a form of government, we know that. It’s a set of promises to its people. The Declaration of Independence promises a government that respects and safeguards the unalienable rights of every human being – the first among those rights, the font of every other right, the right to life. And of course, we know that the Constitution acknowledges that America was founded to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” – our children.
What makes these promises revolutionary and a beacon of hope to the entire world is that it puts America’s founding squarely on the side of the powerless, the defenseless, the marginalized, the lonely, those in the shadows. It defies the tyranny of the strong over the weak – the idea that somehow “might makes right.”
Our rights are not contingent upon government’s plans or our plans, but exist because God willed us into being, loved us with an unfathomable love, and created each one of us, boy and girl, with a specific purpose that only we can fill.
Whenever our culture loses touch with these principles, injustice and suffering follow, even in our own great nation. Great human rights movements in our nation’s history – abolition, suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, the child labor movement – have pointed toward the promises of our founding documents as an anchor of truth, invitation to servant leadership and an antidote to indifference.
Roe v. Wade was a profound betrayal of America’s foundational promises. In just one fateful day, that decision and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton swept away every single law in this nation protecting unborn children. Edward Lazarus, who was a former clerk for liberal Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, of all people, said that “Roe borders on the indefensible…a constitutional right to privacy broad enough to include abortion has no meaningful foundation in constitutional text, history, or precedent.” Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Roe “provoked, not resolved, conflict.” Instead of deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed, the Court in an act of extreme hubris disenfranchised every American and our representatives, imposing abortion on demand through birth as the national status quo. Instead of securing life and liberty for all our children, we failed our promises to our people. Since 1973 we have collectively destroyed 60 million boys and girls intended for this world – each one made, as President Trump said in his State of the Union message the other day, in the holy image of God.
Our country’s abortion laws are so extreme that it puts us in the company of only seven countries in the world – including China and North Korea, regimes that Lindsey Graham is always saying, “That’s a human rights club you do not want to be in.” Though we advocate for human rights around the world, our role as the biblical ‘shining city on a hill’ and what President Reagan envisioned and spoke of so often remains tragically tarnished.
Where did we go wrong? Friends, we have to ask that question. We are on the other side of it now and the horror can be gotten used to, just like every other evil. Children get used to their own abuse, victims across the board during our history got used to the usurpation of their rights. We cannot get used to this horror even with 3,000 every day who we will never know. How did we depart so radically from the defining principles that makes America exceptional? This is not who we’re supposed to be and it is not, at our core, who we are.
A few days ago we witnessed the logical conclusion to which Roe leads. The U.S. Senate had the opportunity to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors [Protection] Act, legislation to ensure that babies born alive during failed abortions receive the same treatment as any other premature baby would require to sustain its life. This bill responds to, as you well know, radical efforts in New York, Virginia, and now popping up in so many states across this country where they would extend abortion to the point when…a mother is even in labor – in fact, extend that so-called “right” to the baby’s birthday.
Every single Democrat in the Senate had the chance that day to take a stand against infanticide – against murder. All but three of them refused. The inhumanity of the modern Democratic Party’s position on abortion has now been exposed. We can be grateful for that. “Safe, legal, and rare,” that old Clinton way of looking at it, is just a distant memory. Safe, legal and rare is not their mantra; what their mantra is, if you signed up for a dead baby you’re going to get one no matter what.
There may be a temptation to look at this last vote and be discouraged, but do not be discouraged! The truth sets us free. Clarity is vital in moments like this.
The battle lines have been drawn. Part of America that has been standing on the sidelines cannot miss and is not missing this moment. Just this past week we got polling in light of Virginia and New York that showed that Democrats self-described pro-life moved from 20% to 34%. People under the age of 45 (I think I call those young people now) had a 20-point jump in how many people considered themselves pro-life. We are having a national conversation about life and protecting it or not in a way that we have never before, not since Roe v. Wade. We are witnessing panic, desperation and overreach on the other side that is typical of a dying cause. Life is winning, everywhere in the hearts and minds of Americans.
In President Trump, we have the most productive pro-life president in history. He is delivering on his promises to the pro-life voters who propelled him to victory and he is surpassing our hopes. With the President fully engaged and leading by example, the pro-life movement is ready to go on offense, defeat abortion extremists in all the states, aggressively challenge Roe in a Court now transformed with outstanding constitutionalist judges chosen by this president, and protect our pro-life allies in Congress. We will also re-elect President Trump in 2020 with the muscle of the pro-life movement solidly behind him, and life will be a pivotal and defining issue of this coming election.
The extreme position that is only held by a tiny sliver of the American public that it’s somehow justifiable to kill a newborn child or abandon her to die is one that no presidential candidate wants to have to be on the other side of. In the last presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to rationalize all this, and it didn’t go well, thanks to candidate Trump. He had the courage to illuminate the brutal reality of abortion in debate on national TV for the very first time on a debate stage. Now, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and every other potential Democratic primary candidate will have to answer for where they stand.
Recently I had the extreme privilege of introducing President Trump to young families and young people whose stories were so powerful and a reminder of the love and humanity at the center, the core of the pro-life movement. They were women and children who’d been spared from the destructive avarice of the abortion industry and the callous indifference of its political allies. Never before have abortion survivors been invited into the Oval Office for conversation with a president. The beauty of their lives that day and the heartbreaking thought of a world without any of them impels us to fight.
One of my favorites was a young woman from Indiana who was the top lobbyist for the abortion anti-discrimination bill that’s making its way to the Supreme Court. This young woman with Down syndrome talked about her life as beautiful, valuable, worth it, and stop eliminating her brothers and sisters with Down syndrome.
Another of my favorites was Melissa Ohden, was a survivor of an abortion. She survived after five days of sitting in saline, in a saline abortion situation. Five days she sat in that, and by a miracle she survived – and she’s a beautiful woman, 41 years old with two little children.
It’s time to renew our commitment to our founding documents and their promises. We’ve been estranged from this great heritage because of Roe v. Wade and the hearts that led to that. The duty of conservatives, I believe, in this particular moment is to prod the memory of a nation that is suffering from a rootless amnesia that has led to death.
Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” To make America great again, Roe must go…and abortion must end.
And like every other human rights movement, we know this, proceeding – all of those human rights movements, proceeding in an unbroken line from the founding of our nation, pro-lifers will be told, “You can’t.” We’ve heard this before – “You can’t.” But with humility we must admit that’s not true, we cannot do this alone. We believe life will be victorious because of another guiding American principle: faith in the Creator, our Creator who endowed us with unalienable rights, who turns “no” into “yes”, who turns “can’t” into “can.” And that’s what makes America great. Thank you.