In Bible-belt Georgia, one would think that pro-life organizations would support the federal “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which imposes a 20 week abortion ban (with exceptions for rape and incest). The bill passed the House last week generally along party lines, 242-184. But one pro-life organization vigorously opposed this bill.
Georgia Right to Life wrote that the bill, H.R. 36, “contains dangerous exceptions that allow babies conceived via rape or incest to be murdered despite the ability to feel pain.” And while that’s true, this is more than a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It’s a case of Georgia Right to Life bullying itself into irrelevancy and ineffectiveness.
Since Roe v. Wade was decided 42 years ago, American opinion on abortion has been fairly steady. The far-left 21 to 28 percent say it should be legal “under all circumstances,” while the other 71 to 79 percent believe there should be at least some restrictions. Where the pro-life movement has made gains is in where the restrictions should begin, and in this, the radical feminist left stands firmly opposed to sound science.
Even liberal Newsweek admitted that a New England Journal of Medicine study published earlier this month, finding that “a significant number of babies who were born at 22 weeks, just over five months of gestation, survived after being medically treated in a hospital,” could change the abortion debate.
National opinion follows the science. An American Enterprise Institute opinion poll compilation shows that in every poll since 1989, a steady plurality of Americans would support some kind of medical test to determine a baby’s viability outside the womb after 20 weeks. In 2013, more Americans would support a total ban of abortions after 20 weeks (with exceptions for rape and incest) than oppose it.
And far from a “war on women”, a National Journal/United Technologies poll found that women form the largest gap in favor of the ban.
Here we are in 2015, with H.R. 36, essentially mirroring the 2013 “Fetal Pain Bill,” which Georgia Right to Life also opposed. Both the House and the Senate are Republican majorities, and this is the best possible time to send a pro-life bill to the president’s desk—a bill the entire country would generally support—forcing President Obama to very publicly veto it.
But Georgia Right to Life opposed the bill because it contained an exception for rape and incest. To the Left, it’s always about rape and incest. Every time an abortion ban is proposed, at the local, state, or federal level, the death-merchants pull out the “rape and incest” card. It’s as predictable as pulling the string on a Chatty Cathy doll.
And every time that string is pulled, Georgia Right to Life plays into the Left’s hands, by opposing all progress short of complete victory. Cal Thomas wrote in January after the original version of this bill was sent back for rework:
This is the key to advancing the pro-life argument. Republicans should be about “empowering women,” giving them more information so that they will be fully informed before choosing whether to sustain a life, or end one. Sonogram technology is the best tool for providing that information. Some studies found that abortion-minded women changed their minds about having an abortion after seeing their child growing in their wombs. Others found the opposite to be true. Still, women should have the choice.
Choosing an empowerment strategy will put pro-choice advocates on the defensive. They then may be the ones seeking to keep women uninformed. Don’t we have federal laws requiring truthful information on food labels so that consumers can make informed decisions about what they put in their bodies? A sonogram requirement would give a woman the information she might need to make an alternative choice and spare the life of her child. Her access to this information should not be restricted.
This is the smart way to advance the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate and change the dynamic and direction from its current stagnation. Republicans will try it if they are smart. But that, too, could be debatable.
Choosing the strategy of stagnation and deadlock by preferring the perfect victory over the best offense is how Georgia Right to Life operates. And they are bullies about it.
Four Georgia Congressmen signed Georgia Right to Life Political Action Committee’s candidate “affirmation,” including their position on rape and incest, which begins “GRTL opposes abortion for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.” Three of those four voted “Yea” to the H.R. 36. Georgia Right to Life PAC then withdrew their endorsement of Georgia Reps. Buddy Carter, Barry Loudermilk, and Rick Allen.
“They ran on the principle that no child should be aborted based on manner of conception,” Nancy Stith, GRTL Executive Director said. “We feel like voting for this bill is a violation of that.”
Before the vote on H.R. 36, GRTL’s president and an employee camped out on Capitol Hill and “communicated ahead of time that if they did vote for it, that we would pull their endorsement,” Stith said.
The press release on Carter’s website doesn’t mention GRTL by name. However, in an emailed statement, he said “I refuse to stand idle when given the opportunity to protect innocent babies.”
“I will not turn my back on saving thousands of unborn babies annually from terribly painful deaths,” he added. “A majority of Americans support the late term ban and even President Obama has said that ending late-term abortions is the type of pro-life legislation he could support.”
“It would be an unfortunate missed opportunity if this bill did not pass the House to further discussions and advance the pro-life cause,” Carter said.
Neither Loudermilk nor Allen mention GRTL in their own published statements. When all pro-life organizations got behind the effort to pass this bill, GRTL remained steadfast in its intransigence, and because of that, it has achieved irrelevance.
Even worse, GRTL’s bullying has likely caused one of the most conscientious pro-life legislators on Capitol Hill to vote “present” on a bill he supports. Rep. Jody Hice sponsored H.R. 426, the “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” which declares “each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
Hice is a Baptist preacher with a D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary, and succeeded über-conservative Paul Broun in Georgia’s 10th district when Broun gave up his seat in an unsuccessful bid for senator. Sources on Capitol Hill explained that Hice was in quite a dilemma: vote against a pro-life bill and stand against his own conscience, or vote for it and contradict the word he pledged (and violate “let your yes be yes” (Matthew 5:37)), when he signed GRTL PAC’s affirmation. He voted “present.”
It’s almost like someone said “everyone who stands with Georgia Right to Life take one step forward,” and when Hice did, the other three stepped back. Hice has, at the price of some personal angst, earned the continuing endorsement of an organization that stands for nothing but its own political pipe dreams.
“This bill was a message bill,” Stith said. “The president’s not going to sign it. It’s not going to pass the Senate.” GRTL is more scared of Republicans not keeping to their flock’s perfect standards than advancing the cause for which they stand.
There’s something wrong with that.
This is why Erick Erickson was one of the founders of the Georgia Life Alliance, an organization that takes a less cynical and more compassionate view of pro-life politics. GLA issued a statement Friday:
The Georgia Life Alliance Committee applauds the following Georgia members of the U.S. Congress for their yes vote in support of H.R.36: Rep. Tom Price, Rep. Tom Graves, Rep. Doug Collins, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Rep. Buddy Carter, Rep. Austin Scott, Rep. Rick Allen, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, and Rep. Rob Woodall.
One congressman did not get any applause.
“The ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ combines compassion with sound scientific evidence,” said Georgia Life Alliance’s Executive Director Emily Matson. “We’re grateful that nine our Georgia’s ten pro-life Congressmen stood in support of this powerful and rationale bill. On the other hand, we are disappointed that Rep. Jody Hice withheld voting for this measure which clearly moves our cause down the field.”
Politics should not play games with life, and politicians should not be put into positions which compromise their own conscience. It’s sad that Jody Hice was left out of the celebration of life in H.R. 36. Georgia Right to Life should consider its ways before it finds itself buried under the weight of its own cynicism.
(crossposted from RedState.com)