Politics & Policy

At Last, the House Passes a Late-Term Abortion Bill

Ultrasound of an unborn child at 20 weeks. (Letuve/Dreamstime)

The House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, thank God. And thank John Boehner.

This is the bill that would ban abortions if the unborn child is 20 weeks or older. The bill was supposed to be passed by the House on January 22, to coincide with the March for Life.

This is the bill that Democrats don’t want to talk about, the bill that points out how extreme their party has become on abortion. This is the bill that Hillary Clinton opposes and that virtually every major GOP presidential candidate has endorsed. This is the bill that put Rand Paul on the offensive against the mainstream media and the DNC, for their refusal to ask Democrats if they support Gosnell-like late-term abortion mills.

It means, among other things, that the 2016 election will become in part a referendum on late-term abortions. Once again the life community will have a chance to prove that the Democrats’ pro-abortion extremism not only makes no moral sense, but it also makes no political sense.

This is the bill that has been 40 years in the making — and it’s also the first major piece of federal abortion legislation since the partial-birth abortion bill boosted the pro-life brand in 2003.

President Obama has pledged to veto the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. So we need a Republican House and Senate and the White House to save these children’s lives and remove our national scourge of late-term abortion.

As we stand on the cusp of a historic pro-life victory, it is important to ask: How did we get here?

The Democratic party is now committed to trying to force nuns to pay for abortifacients — that is how extreme the Democratic party has become.

I remember being at the table in New York City in the 1980s, discussing abortion strategies with people who said they could never support any law except a constitutional amendment protecting all human life. Otherwise, they told me, their hands would be dirty. I remember thinking: Your hands may be clean, but the babies are still dying.

I remember when Bill Clinton tried to take the Democratic party away from abortion extremism (rhetorically at least), saying he wanted abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” “Rare” has since been removed from the Democratic party platform. The Democratic party is now committed to trying to force nuns to pay for abortifacients — that is how extreme the Democratic party has become.

I remember when Mitch Daniels offered his theory that the pathway to power for Republicans lay in declaring a unilateral truce on “social issues,” and how disastrous it was when the Romney campaign implemented that truce in 2012.

This week’s victory is sweet — so how did we get to a vote?

There is a model here to which other social conservatives should pay attention. Many people over many years have played a part: scholars such as Robby George and Hadley Arkes; the National Right to Life Committee; the Catholic bishops, who provided steadfast support, working with a growing number of evangelical leaders; nonprofits such as Charmaine Yoest’s Americans United for Life, which does voter education and voter guides. Many others contributed to building a political movement.

Social conservatives have many similar institutions, but the pro-life movement has one thing that social conservatives generally lack: a political arm, in the form of the intrepid ladies of the Susan B. Anthony List. The Susan B. Anthony List trains candidates in how to convey a pro-life message, and it conducts original research through its Lozier Institute. But it also does something else: It raises money and spends it to help elect pro-life champions in Congress and defeat pro-abortion extremists.

The whole pro-life movement focused on one legislative victory, something concrete that would make a difference if passed. And the House vote this week allows us to work for final passage and demonstrate that being pro-life helps, not hurts, the Republican party.

Social conservatives this year face a key decision, in my view: Get into politics, or get out. The middle ground, where we go on television and pretend to be in politics, is the worst of all worlds. We generate all the hatred that political actors typically generate, and we do not build the institutions we need to protect our people.

The pro-life movement took 40 years to figure a lot of this out. Let’s learn from this victory.

— Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project. She blogs at MaggieGallagher.com.

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