Politics & Policy

House Republicans’ Cowardly Retreat

March for Life 2015 in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2015. (Alex Wong/Getty)
They think a late-term-abortion ban is controversial even though it enjoys widespread support.

Evidently, Republicans don’t feel competent enough to make a case against infanticide. Why else would the GOP pull its 20-week abortion-limit bill?

Here’s a short list of things that are less popular than banning late-term abortions: “Acting” on climate change. “Free” community college. Taxing the wealthy. Building the Keystone XL pipeline. President Barack Obama. Future President Hillary Clinton. Every Republican who’s thinking about running for president.

A new Marist poll finds that 84 percent of Americans favor some level of further restrictions on abortion. And regardless of their feelings about the legality of the procedure, 60 percent believe it to be “morally wrong.” If you aren’t keen on that poll — it was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, after all — you can take your pick of others.

A Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of women support limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A CBS News poll found that 60 percent of Americans think abortion “should not be permitted” or should be available only under “stricter limits.” A CNN poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal only in a “few circumstances” or “always illegal.”

Yet the GOP caves on a bill that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks and promises instead to pass another worthless ban on taxpayer-funded abortions — which we all know can be ignored by hiring an accountant.

Polls change. Polls don’t make you right. I know. But this week marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And while the media continue to treat every Obama non-starter and crowd-pleaser as a genuine policy idea, the 20-week abortion ban was predictably framed as another divisive play by zealous conservatives. Controversial. Republican leaders helpfully confirmed this perception by abandoning the only bill their party has come up with in years that has been widely supported.

Before the GOP pulled the bill, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank had argued that Republicans were needlessly reviving the culture war, pulling a bait-and-switch on the electorate — because abortion is not a high priority for voters and it was “rarely” campaigned on as an issue during the midterms.

Now, I can’t find a corresponding piece from Milbank griping about the Left’s obsession with climate change, an issue that is also consistently one of the lowest priorities among voters, but I’m sure it exists somewhere. What’s truly absurd, though, is the idea that the GOP alone is responsible for any “revival of the culture wars.” The culture war never ended. Some of you probably remember the Democrats’ gyneco-centric 2014 campaign to paint every GOP candidate as a misogynist.

A big part of that attack was focused on abortion. It stopped working. So someone needs to inform House Republicans of this. Because the most mystifying aspect of the GOP’s retreat on the 20-week ban is that the 20-week ban is not new. Most of these same Republicans voted on the same legislation before the midterm elections, including some of the same representatives who reportedly withdrew their support for the bill. Nearly every GOP candidate running in the midterms publicly backed the idea, even in high-profile races in which Democrats made abortion the central issue of their campaign.

Yet at the same time, Obama continues to support unrestricted abortion on demand for any reason at any time by anyone. There is no one to moderate his position. No one to make him veto a bill. No one to ask him about it. The president has no compunctions about supporting infanticide — which, by any moral or scientific standard, is what we’re talking about.

It often seems as if the only time the Obama administration opposes government’s coming between a woman and her doctor is when the latter is extracting a dead human being from the former. (Though, to be fair, occasionally those humans are terminated after extraction.) More than 18,000 viable or nearly viable babies do not have a chance to confer with a physician about the excruciating pain they may be experiencing. The House has better things to do than confront that situation.

This is about politics. Tragically incompetent politics. Even though a veto was imminent, you have to wonder: If the party representing the pro-life position, a party with a sizable majority, can’t pull together a vote on an issue as unambiguous and risk-free as this one, what are the chances of its coming to a consensus and offering compelling arguments on issues such as health care and tax reform? Very little, I imagine.

— David Harsanyi is a senior editor at the Federalist and the author of The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case against DemocracyFollow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. © 2015 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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