When House Republicans scheduled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act for a vote on January 22, pro-life leaders noted the powerful symbolism of holding the life-affirming vote on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing most abortions nationally.
Then when Republicans leaders abruptly cancelled the vote on Wednesday night, the bill became symbolic of something much different — a party that will fold at the first sign of trouble whenever abortion is debated.
The bill would ban most abortions after five months of pregnancy based on evidence that unborn babies feel pain starting at that point. The ban included the usual exceptions, for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.
An identical bill passed the Republican House two years ago, but stalled in the then-Democrat-controlled Senate.
Media reports stated that several female Republican lawmakers revolted against the bill. The sticking point was ostensibly that it required rape and incest victims seeking late-term abortions to first report their assaults to the police. The House Republican leadership should have made sure that any grievances and disagreements among their members were aired and addressed privately and well before the bill was to be voted on.
It’s strange that Republicans would be cowed so easily on a proposal that enjoys such overwhelming support. As Gallup has noted, “One of the clearest messages from Gallup trends is that Americans oppose late-term abortion.”
According to a recent Marist University Poll, 84 percent of Americans support limiting most abortions to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Even 69 percent of self-identified abortion rights supporters agree.
Other polls have found support for laws prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks ranging from 60 percent (Quinnipiac University) to 64 percent (The Polling Company and The Washington Post/ABC). Interestingly, in the Post/ABC poll, support among women was even higher—71 percent—than that of the public at-large.
The Quinnipiac poll specifically mentioned the rape reporting requirement, and still found two-to-one support for the legislation.
Despite strong public support for limiting abortions to extreme cases, abortion advocates did what they always do — casting as anti-woman anyone who signaled their support for outlawing the dismemberment of living, sensing human beings.
The day before the scheduled vote, President Obama criticized the legislation as “demonstrating a complete disregard for the women who experience sexual assault and the barriers they may face in reporting.” Note the “complete” in Obama’s statement. These people aren’t just indifferent to the plight of rape victims, Obama seemed to be saying. They really hate them.
This and similar statements by abortion advocates seem to have scared enough Republicans into withdrawing their support (though I should add that most Republicans stood strong). Many of them no doubt could already imagine the “war on women”-themed attack ads liberal groups would be running against them in the next campaign if they’d voted for the bill.
The abortion lobby is already trying to raise money off the Republicans’ retreat from the 20-week ban. NARAL Pro-Choice America sent an email to donors on Thursday claiming credit for the cancelled vote and soliciting donations.
“I never thought I would see the day that the Tea Party-led House of Representatives would wake up to the fact that their priorities — outright abortion bans — are way out of touch with the American people,” NARAL’s president, Ilyse Hogue, said in a statement. “The GOP drafted a bill so extreme and so out of touch with the voters that even their own membership could not support.”
Hogue’s statement is rife with inaccuracies. The bill is not anything close to an outright abortion ban. Only about one to two percent of abortions fall at 20 weeks or beyond. There were exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.
What’s more, it is the Democrats’ abortion agenda — which includes not just late-term abortions but also laws that force taxpayers to fund them — that can more accurately be described as being “way out of touch with the American people.”
As absurd as it is, Hogue’s statement is important for one reason: it demonstrates that what often counts in politics is not which side’s agenda aligns with the principles of the Constitution or which side enjoys the support of the American people.
What ultimately matters is which side is willing to do whatever it takes to enact its agenda. For liberals, that often includes demonizing one’s opponents and lying to the public. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said about passing Obamacare, an unconstitutional and unpopular law if ever there was one, “We came here to do a job, not keep a job.”
Right now it is the Democrats who are willing to do whatever it takes to do the job on the legislative front. And on no issue is this more true than on abortion.
Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate, is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.