More on Pain-Capable: why the rape/incest exception?

Note: The U.S. House voted late today to pass H.R. 1797, 228-196. Reps. Shea-Porter and Kuster (D-NH) voted Nay.

Those of us supporting H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, are being called to task today by pro-life allies as the debate and vote are pending in Washington. Rebecca Kiessling (see my post about her here) and Abby Johnson, champions if there ever were champions, are turning their formidable fire on the likes of me for supporting a bill with exceptions.

First, I have to acknowledge that I hadn’t been aware of the exception when I wrote yesterday’s post. The copy of the bill I read had no mention of a rape/incest exception, although the usual life-of-the-mother clause is in there. Kiessling in a stinging commentary today reports that the rape/incest exception was added to the bill four days ago. She is unmoved by arguments that we need bills that will save at least some babies. “I would love to see an example where there was a law with a rape exception and someone went back to save the 1 and the rape exception was removed from the law,” she says.

Johnson posted this on her Facebook page today:

“Curious how some of you will answer this. If there was a bill proposed that only banned abortions for white people, but allowed them for everyone else, would you support it? If you are of the mindset ‘well, we save as many as we can’ mentality, then this type of bill would be right up your alley, correct?
My thinking is that this type of bill would be appalling for prolifers. People would be standing against it. But yet, when babies conceived in rape are dehumanized in this way, we continue to allow it and justify why it is okay?”

I disagree with Johnson that a comparison with race is at all relevant to H.R. 1797’s provisions. In fact, if it “dehumanizes” the children conceived in rape, it also “dehumanizes” the children who are at less than twenty weeks’ gestation and any children whose ability to feel pain has somehow not been documented. Remember, this is “pain-capable” legislation. It doesn’t humanize or dehumanize anyone. Like viability,”pain” is a subjective and slippery concept.

Even in the face of so much subjectivity, and in the face of disagreement with women whom I respect highly, I have still asked Carol Shea-Porter to support H.R. 1797, even as I slap my forehead over the people who added the exception to the bill.

Our current Chief Executive has threatened to veto the bill if it gets to his desk (which it won’t, thanks to Harry Reid and the pro-abortion Senate majority). The presence or absence of a rape exception did not play into his decision. Putting one in there seems pointless as a consensus-building tactic.

Kiessling has a point: rape exceptions tend to persist. She notes that the Hyde Amendment has kept that exception for years. I agree with her that it’s time to remove the exception. This does not mean I’ll refuse to support an appropriations bill that has a Hyde Amendment, on the grounds of the Amendment’s exceptions. I realize that this leaves me with a scarlet “C” on my forehead, “c” for “compromiser,” visible only to certain pro-lifers under certain conditions. After thirty years of activism, I don’t fold up when I hear that word, any more than I fold up when I’m called “anti-choice.” Let’s just get today’s work done, and that work is getting a vote in Congress on H.R. 1797.

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