By Tony Perkins
The streets of Washington were warming up just as pro-life action was heating up inside Congress! Late Wednesday, a handful of Republicans managed to derail an effort that had been underway for months on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — stalling a bill that pro-lifers had hoped to celebrate during today’s March for Life.
After meeting all day with conservatives, House Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-Texas) made the reluctant decision to pull the pain ban and replace it with another pro-life measure, H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, which is another one of FRC’s top priorities.
The plan had been to move Rep. Trent Franks’s (R-Ariz.) five-month abortion limit first and then turn off the spigot for federal dollars for abortion next. Unfortunately, that plan was spoiled — not by liberal Democrats, but so-called pro-life Republican women like Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (Ind.). Both had previously voted for the measure but last week began organizing opposition to the rape and incest reporting requirements, which were a part of the compromise they help reached in the last Congress. What the reporting requirement does is simple: it insists that anyone who says they were raped and seeks an abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy has to report the assault to authorities.
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If Ellmers and others had picked this fight before, pro-lifers might understand. But the reality is, Ellmers and her RINO allies voted for this exact same language in 2013 when the Pain-Capable bill passed the House. So you can understand why groups like FRC were confused — not only by the timing of this stand (just days before a vote that had been planned since last year), but by the group’s sudden opposition.
While I was on Capitol Hill yesterday meeting with members, FRC’s government affairs team and thousands of you around the country tried to rally the House to overcome these obstacles. Ultimately, leadership decided it would be best to put the bill on hold for now and fast-track the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act. For Ellmers and others, the backlash since last night’s betrayal has been severe. Today, the North Carolina politician tried to put out the fires of withdrawing her co-sponsorship by insisting that she was still “pro-life.” She’ll have an uphill climb proving it, after sidelining one of the first real meaningful unborn protections of the new Congress.
Of course, some are quick to put the blame at House leadership’s feet. I’m not one of them. As Rep. Franks said later, this isn’t the end of H.R. 36. “GOP leaders want to try to create as much unity as we can.” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the lead GOP sponsor of the bill that replaced Franks’s — and one of the strongest advocates for the unborn the U.S. House has ever seen — agreed. The Pain-Capable measure is “only delayed,” he promised, as we “just work through some bits.”
While this isn’t exactly how pro-lifers planned to mark the 42nd March for Life, we were just as thrilled that House conservatives united to pass the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act — a bill that would permanently wall off taxpayers from the bloody business of abortion in ObamaCare and other federal legislation. For Rep. Smith, Democratic sponsor Rep Dan Lipinski (Ill.), and the entire movement, seeing the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion pass the House was tremendous victory, several years in the making. And not just for us — but for an overwhelming number of Americans who support the idea (68% according to this morning’s polling).
To the credit of House leaders, all but one Republican — even the wobbly ones — voted yes on the bill. As disappointed as we are at the handful of members who delayed the pain ban, we applaud the House leadership for remaining committed to advancing pro-life legislation.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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