Tuesday night in West Virginia, the house passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — which would protect unborn babies from abortion beginning at 20 weeks, or after five months of pregnancy — by an incredible margin: 79 to 17.
An extraordinary number of Democrats — 34 — backed this compassionate and reasonable limit on late abortion. That’s exactly double the number of Democrats who opposed the bill.
Now, before West Virginia Democrats are given too much credit for passing this popular limit, it’s important to know that their hand was called by pro-life Republicans, who forced the issue by trying to discharge the bill from committee two weeks ago. The effort to discharge the bill out of committee and onto the floor failed on a vote that was tied 48-48.
The very next day, the Democratic Caucus in the house held a contentious meeting that, according to a local media report, included “yelling and screaming, and even delegates concerned that fisticuffs might break out.” This was after house Democrats were hammered by pro-life groups and their constituents for refusing to bring the bill to the floor. Raucous as it was, the meeting led to action. The Democrats introduced their own legislation, which sped through the committee process, and then overwhelmingly passed Tuesday night.
It is now up to the Democratic-controlled senate — which has a 24–10 majority — to pass the bill and get it to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk. The governor, who succeeded Joe Manchin when the latter won a seat in the U.S. Senate, says that he is pro-life. He now has a chance to prove it.
Regardless of which party was ultimately responsible for getting this bill to the West Virginia house floor, it is still amazing (but not unprecedented) to see 2:1 majority Democratic support. Democratic legislators played a key role in the passage of similar and even more potent pro-life legislation in Arkansas in recent years. At the grassroots level, the Democratic party often still stands for the “little guy” who dies in each abortion and for the mothers who often suffer so much pressure to end their pregnancies and avert the pressure of boyfriends or parents.
Contrast this to the U.S. Congress, where the abortion lobby clearly has a death grip on the national Democratic party: Not a single Senate Democrat has agreed to co-sponsor the federal version of this legislation, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham and co-sponsored by 40 of his Republican colleagues.
Who is the most obvious Democratic Senator missing from this bill? West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who says that he is pro-life and who is not up for reelection this year. SBA List members and other pro-lifers across West Virginia have been e-mailing and calling his office for weeks asking him to sign onto this reasonable legislation. So far . . . total silence.
Word on Capitol Hill is that Senate majority leader Harry Reid — he who has cast quite a few votes against abortion and once said that he “clearly oppose[s] abortion” — is dedicated to resisting a vote on a bill that would highlight the radicalism of many fellow Senate Democrats. But Reid also said in an interview last year that he would be “open” to a vote on the Graham bill. Manchin could be key to securing that openness.
The question is: Will Senator Manchin follow the emphatic lead of Democrats in his home state, or has he too fallen under the influence of the national Democrats’ inside-the-Beltway abortion death grip?
— Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of more than 365,000 Americans dedicated to electing leaders and pursuing policies in order to reduce and ultimately end abortion