The “Pain-Capable” Bill: blocked by both parties

January 22 was supposed to bring a vote on a federal bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Didn’t happen. Republican women who were elected with the help of pro-life donors decided to block the bill, demanding that a provision be removed that would have required a rape survivor seeking a late-term abortion to report the rape to law enforcement. House Speaker John Boehner withdrew the bill to avoid a defeat on the floor. (Consolation prize: a bill to block taxpayer funding of abortions. More on that another day.)

There’s plenty of angst to go around. The women who derailed the bill … their colleagues who were terribly afraid of disagreeing with these women on a “women’s issue” (tell that to the aborted males) … the people who inserted a rape-and-incest exception … the people who opposed the bill altogether because it wasn’t pro-life enough … the people who hated the bill because it would have blocked any abortions at all …

I’m with David Harsanyi, who said “Evidently, Republicans don’t feel competent enough to make a case against infanticide.” Yes, I wanted this bill to pass. It was a misshapen thing, but it should have passed. I reject the assertion that it would have made pre-20-week abortions or rape-and-incest abortions acceptable. It was Justice Blackmun and his brethren who made those abortions legal.

Remember who made late-term abortion a matter of debate in Washington in 2013? Kermit Gosnell. In the wake of his atrocities, Congress took its first crack at a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Democrats blocked it. Last week, Republicans blocked it. Different reasons, same outcome: no coherent defense of any preborn child, never mind all of them.

A reader recently reminded me of something I wrote in June of 2013. Then-Speaker Pelosi was nearly incoherent when asked about the difference between legal late-term abortion and the murder of a 23-week baby who survived an attempted abortion. (There is no difference, of course, but as an abortion advocate in good standing, Pelosi couldn’t quite say that.)  I’m beginning to think the Republican women who blocked the Pain-Capable bill couldn’t do much better. Their words would be different, certainly, but the result would be the same.

After the 2013 vote on the bill, I took my lumps from pro-lifers who were incensed that the bill had exceptions. Some things haven’t changed.

On Roe+42, quite a legislative ride

The New Hampshire House held a committee hearing on a personhood bill today. Lots of testimony in favor, lots of skeptical questions from the committee members. No vote yet. Meanwhile, down in Washington, a big-deal pro-life vote planned to coincide with the national March for Life morphed into something else. I’m still trying to sort it out. There was something in here to please and offend just about everyone.

In Washington, hundreds of thousands march for life

screenshot of EWTN coverage of March for Life 2015
screenshot of EWTN coverage of March for Life 2015

While legislators toiled in Concord and the nation’s capitol, the March for Life went on in Washington. Tuning in to some of the coverage on EWTN was a fair antidote to any legislative overload. I’m glad one network considers an annual civil rights march with hundreds of thousands of people worth covering in depth. If you mutter “well, of course…it’s a Catholic network”, I’m glad anyway. Shame on any “news” organization that skimps on March for Life coverage in favor of in-depth reporting on deflated footballs.

Warning: exceptions alert

True confessions:

  • I support the Hyde Amendment, which has been attached to every federal HHS appropriation for a generation. The Amendment is meant to keep federal funds from paying for most abortions. I support it even though it has a rape-&-incest exception. I don’t see that as “okaying” such abortions.
  • I support parental notification legislation, even though it allows abortions if parents or a judge approve them.
  • I support a ban on partial-birth abortions, even though such laws leave every other type of abortion legal.

You get the idea. Human life exists from the moment of conception and is to be protected. Not every law touching on the life issues protects every human being. That doesn’t mean I want to throw out Hyde, parental notification, and so on.

This becomes relevant as we look at the mess that the House made out of a decent bill over the past few days.

A federal 20-week ban is on hold

The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act, as originally written and introduced in Congress, would have made abortions illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the grounds that babies can feel pain at that point.

You and I are human whether we can feel pain or not. I say that without fear of serious argument. I favored the bill, though, because it was a good step. A consensus point: most Americans find late-term abortions at least distasteful.  The Republicans were supposedly going to get this passed: it had passed the House once before, only to come up against an obstinately pro-abortion Democratic Senate. The 2014 election brought a Republican Senate to power. A vote was scheduled for January 22, to coincide with the march in Washington. So – on with the 20-week ban. Right?

No. An exception for rape & incest abortions was added to the bill. Uh-oh. No-exceptions members of Congress objected, as did national groups like Save the 1. Then a provision was added that a rape survivor wanting a post-20-week abortion couldn’t have one unless the rape was first reported to law enforcement. I heard from an authoritative source yesterday what was confirmed in news coverage today: every woman in the GOP conference in the House, save one, said they’d abandon the bill unless the latter provision were removed. Few Republican men want to be cast as being unsympathetic to women, so this caused great consternation in the party conference. The upshot: Speaker Boehner pulled the bill from the calendar.

He did so despite the fact that the bill with its exceptions and its rape-reporting language was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List (which expected its endorsed candidates to support it; that was a miscalculation), the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and the organizers of the national March for Life.

The number of emails from these groups over the past 48 hours became positively oppressive. More oppressive still was the absence of any mention of the bill’s exceptions.

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina explained why she led the charge to derail the bill: “I think we’re all just going through some growing pains,” and she didn’t want the GOP to sound “harsh” to women and young people. Help yourself to her comments here. So much for being endorsed by pro-life groups.

Would I have cut off my support for my Congressman had he voted for the exceptions-laden bill? No, in view of his overall record (and in view of the rabid pro-abortion beliefs of the woman he replaced). But let’s not pretend the exceptions weren’t there.

The bill will be brought up at a later date. What condition it will arrive in is anybody’s guess.

A postscript: conspicuously absent from the list of organizations promoting the bill was Americans United for Life. AUL’s Women’s Protection Project includes model legislation restricting late-term abortions because of the sharply increased risk they pose to a pregnant woman. The Project is a state-by-state endeavor.

The consolation prize: the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

From the Washington Examiner:

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), sponsor of No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion

The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which passed 242-179, was identical to a bill that cleared the Republican-run House last year but died in the then-Democratic controlled Senate. Only three Democrats supported the measure, with Rep. Richard Hanna of Indiana the lone Republican to reject it. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., would make it illegal for individuals to use the Affordable Care Act’s insurance subsidies to buy plans that cover abortion services through the new health exchanges. Many states have already passed legislation limiting abortion coverage in exchange plans, but the measure the House approved would apply nationwide and possibly discourage insurers on the exchanges from offering abortion coverage at all.

Democrats are calling it an assault on women’s health, but they always call taxpayer divestiture from the abortion industry an assault on women’s health.

The bill leaves untouched the Affordable Care Act’s provision that suppression of women’s fertility is such a public health imperative that contraception (including abortion-inducing drugs and devices) must be covered as “preventive care,” paid for by all of us. Still, am I pleased about today’s no-funding bill, as far as it goes? Yes, as far as it goes. Call me an incrementalist.

Meanwhile in Concord, personhood gets a hearing

Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) and nine co-sponsors brought the All People Created Equal Act to the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee today. The Act, HB 194, is simply – or complexly – a personhood bill.

Committee chairman Rep. Robert Rowe (R-Amherst) was prepared. He booked a double-sized room and did not put anything else on the committee calendar for the day. I stayed for only an hour and a half. Judging from the number of people signing in on the bill, I suspect the festivities went well into the afternoon.

The pink t-shirts file in before the personhood hearing in Concord, 1/22/15.
The pink t-shirts file in before the personhood hearing in Concord, 1/22/15.

A pink-t-shirt brigade of Planned Parenthood supporters, nine in all, occupied seats a front corner of the public area. As I’ve noticed at other events, I’ve never seen a faded PP shirt. Are they EVER worn more than once?

From perspectives scientific, religious, and moral, supporters of the bill endorsed the idea that public policy should acknowledge that the offspring of human beings should be recognized as persons from the moment of conception. Unique DNA, undoubtedly human, genetically distinct from the mother: what’s to argue?

Eight state representatives testified to this. More reps signed in but were unable to testify in person; hearings were going on throughout the building on a multitude of other bills. Representatives of New Hampshire Right to Life were there. I recognized several pro-lifers who took time off work or lined up babysitters so they could support the bill in person.

And in the other corner, so to speak: Planned Parenthood and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union had testified against the bill by the time I left. “A frontal attack on access to abortion,” said PP. “Giving legal rights to fertilized eggs would affect many other laws….This doesn’t start a dialogue. This would change the law without a dialogue,” said NHCLU.

Questions from the committee: wouldn’t this stop stem-cell research? (Not adult stem cells.) Wouldn’t this stop in vitro fertilizations? Would this mean “leftover” embryos couldn’t be destroyed? Would the murder of a pregnant woman count as a double homicide? (Tune in when fetal homicide gets a hearing.) If doctors get to decide when life ends, shouldn’t they be able to decide when life begins? (That one came from Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, who has much more faith in the medical profession than I.) If Republican principles support limited government, doesn’t this expand government? (That’s another one from Mr. Sylvia, who knows that personhood is also part of the NHGOP platform.)

The unspoken questions I heard all morning: No exceptions? Really? Wouldn’t this really mess up what we’re used to?

Of course it would. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at what we’re used to.


Money talks: first municipal attempt at late-term abortion ban falls short in Albuquerque

Money talked tonight in New Mexico as a ballot initiative in Albuquerque, New Mexico that would have banned post-20-week abortions fell short of adoption. With all absentee ballots counted along with today’s votes from 28 out of 50 precincts, television station KOB is projecting defeat for the measure, 45%-55%.

The result comes the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court dealt abortion advocates a blow by refusing to block Texas’s new law regulating abortion.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Ordinance” was the first citizen-initiated attempt to regulate late-term abortion on a local level. The title is derived from evidence that preborn children are able to feel pain by 20 weeks’ gestation. Passage of the ordinance would have affected at least one Albuquerque-area late-term abortionist.

Similar federal legislation has been introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte is a co-sponsor of Graham’s measure. Similar legislation is under consideration by several state legislatures.

Abortion advocates spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to defeat the Albuquerque initiative. According to LifeSiteNews, Planned Parenthood spent $300,000 while the ACLU spent $200,000. A PP affiliate in New York held a phone bank last week to contact Albuquerque voters.

ABQ Voters for Late-Term Abortion Ban was the umbrella group for supporters of the initiative. Members of Students for Life of America came from around the country to support the campaign. Abby Johnson supported the ordinance and was in Albuquerque to make get-out-the-vote calls. The Susan B. Anthony List spent $50,000 on a week-long pro-ordinance local TV ad campaign.

Other tweets from initiative supporters as results came in:

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.

Where do NH Congresswomen stand on late-term abortion? They’ll vote tomorrow


I’ll be emailing my Congressional representative this afternoon. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH1) and her colleagues will vote tomorrow on HR 1797, the awkwardly-named Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. I call it the Gosnell Prevention Act. Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH2) could use some attention as well.

Basically, the bill was written to stop abortions on preborn children of more than 20 weeks’ gestation. The 20-week limit is based on what the bill’s drafters conclude from medical evidence is the point at which the preborn child can feel pain.

Not all pro-lifers support this bill. Abby Johnson, for one, objects to it. See her Twitter feed, @AbbyJohnson, for her thoughts. I respect her, and I disagree with her. I am on board with the bill, along with 184 co-sponsors in Congress, Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.

I was around when partial-birth bans were first up for discussion. I remember the objections of some pro-life groups, on the grounds that making one kind of abortion illegal somehow made other types of abortion OK. I thought that interpretation was a terrible mistake. Eventually, some of the same folks who objected to early partial-birth legislation changed their minds and were instrumental in passage of a partial-birth-abortion ban here in New Hampshire.

I see the same kind of thing happening now with pain-capable legislation. No, such bills do not stop all abortions. No, such bills don’t hasten the day that Roe will go the way of Plessy v. Ferguson. Pain is like viability, the measurement of which is subjective and imprecise. Nevertheless, I want this bill passed. At the very least, I want to see a vote. Let’s see who goes on record as defending late-term abortions.

You can bet that Shea-Porter and Kuster aren’t concerned about intramural disputes among pro-lifers on this one. The head of their caucus in Congress, Rep. Pelosi, has made it clear that defeating this bill is a priority for Democrats in Congress. Ask them why.

More information on the bill is available from the National Right to Life Committee, which is ordinarily not one of my go-to resources. Their link here, though, is useful regarding this bill.