To say prolifers feel betrayed by the House of Representative’s failure last month to vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is an understatement. To lay blame at the feet of House leadership, however, is not entirely fair.
House leaders had every reason to believe the vote to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was going to take place. So assured were they of the House’s unity on the measure, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy scheduled the vote for January 22 to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
Why would they not be assured? The House passed this identical bill last year. Every poll out there shows a decisive majority of Americans support it. And in November, voters handed Republicans control of the House and Senate for just such a moment.
Even so, a bloc of Republican lawmakers who should have been emboldened by all of the above, instead were cowed by war-on-women rhetoric and the paralyzing prospect of lost elections.
There’s a scene in the splendid 2012 film “Lincoln” that captures the pressure some lawmakers succumbed to when voting on the 13th Amendment ending slavery in America. When called upon to cast his vote, one congressman panics and dithers, voting first yes, then no, then finally abstaining before collapsing in a defeated heap.
I was reminded of that scene as I read press accounts of the legislative dissention led by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and other congressional milquetoasts, some of whom apparently had no qualms about voting in favor of the bill last year. The mostly female contingent went weak in the knees over the bill’s rape report requirement, which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks except in cases where rape or incest had been reported to authorities.
Ellmers reportedly derailed the vote for fear of losing the support of women and Millennials. Ironically, it’s those two groups, especially the 18-to-29 year-olds, who support the ban by the widest margins, according to a recent National Journal Congressional Connection poll, among others.
Ellmers and her cohorts panicked and dithered. House leadership was blindsided. Suddenly no longer assured they would have the needed votes, leaders wisely chose to postpone the vote until concerns could be addressed. Disheartening and embarrassing as it must have been to make that call, the leaders were wise to postpone a vote we cannot afford to lose.
Ellmers and the others failed their constituents spectacularly, but perhaps they can take comfort in the fact that not everyone is unhappy with their performance. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, heartily congratulated the dissenters for their “sense of political acuity” in derailing the vote on this “ultra-extreme” legislation.
As for House leadership, their real test comes now as they work to coax these quivering daisies back into the fray and convince them to do the job they were elected to do.
That the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history sits poised to veto the legislation matters not. If the House leadership can’t persuade their fellow lawmakers to come together on a bill so vital, so morally necessary and so overwhelmingly supported by the American people, they’re in big trouble. And so are we.