NRLC and allies press for Senate action on key pro-life bill, but Senate Democrats block votes
WASHINGTON (May 13, 2014) – NRLC President Carol Tobias joined with pro-life leaders of the U.S. Senate in a public call for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nv.) to allow a Senate vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1670), an NRLC-inspired bill that would prohibit abortions nationwide after 20 weeks, on grounds that the baby is capable of experiencing great pain by that point in development.
At a Capitol Hill press conference, Tobias stood side by side with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the prime Senate sponsor of the legislation, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), exhorting Reid to allow a test vote on the measure. Also participating were leaders from the Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, the Catholic Association, and others.
The timing of the event was pegged to the one-year anniversary of the conviction of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell on numerous charges, including murder.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, last June, by a vote of 228 to 196, despite a veto threat from the Obama White House. It has been cosponsored by 41 Republican senators. On May 7, 33 Republican senators, led by Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH), Graham, and McConnell, released a letter urging Reid to allow the Senate to vote on the measure,
The congressional legislation is based on model legislation developed by National Right to Life in 2010, initially enacted in Nebraska that year, and enacted in nine additional states since then. Recently, such legislation was also approved by the West Virginia legislature, but vetoed by the governor, with no opportunity for an override vote. It is also currently under active consideration in the South Carolina legislature.
At today’s press conference, Graham said, “In the entire world, there are seven countries that allow elective abortions at the 20-week period and beyond. My goal is to make sure when this is over, there are six.”
Tobias and other participants in the press conference pointed out that numerous polls have shown broad public support for this type of legislation – usually with women even more supportive than men. On May 12, the Washington Post noted, “A Washington Post-ABC News poll last year showed Americans approved of shortening the window for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks – and by a margin of about two-to-one, 56 percent to 27 percent. Even 60 percent of women supported it.”
Prior to today’s press conference, Graham took the Senate floor to request unanimous consent for a deal under which the Senate would debate and then vote both on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and on a pro-abortion bill formally titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 1696), introduced last November by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) with much fanfare from pro-abortion advocacy groups.
The Blumenthal legislation, if enacted and upheld by the federal courts, would invalidate nearly all state limitations on abortion, including waiting periods, women’s right-to-know laws, and laws providing for meaningful monitoring of abortion-providing facilities, which in many states have long operated with virtually no regulatory oversight.
“Under the Blumenthal bill, the unborn child would have no more rights, from conception until birth, than a malignant tumor,” Tobias said. “This is an extreme pro-abortion ideology far removed from the views of the majority of Americans. Yet, in the Congress this can hardly be dismissed as fringe legislation – 34 United States senators have already cosponsored the Blumenthal bill, and in the House of Representatives a companion bill (H.R. 3471) has 111 sponsors. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have proclaimed that the Blumenthal legislation incorporates their public policy vision for the United States and is a top priority for their respective organizations.”
Tobias noted that Blumenthal said, in an interview with the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, “As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues.”
“We agree” with that statement, Tobias said. “Senator Graham’s and Senator Blumenthal’s bills propose starkly different abortion policies for our nation. By all means, let’s let voters see where every member of the Senate stands on both of these bills, by having side-by-side, clean up or down votes on each measure.”
However, Blumenthal himself blocked Graham’s request on the Senate floor, saying that the two bills “should be considered,” but lamely arguing that the full Senate should not consider them without action first by a Senate committee. Tobias commented that this response constituted “clear evidence that the architects of the Blumenthal bill really intend it only to serve as fodder for fund-raising appeals to the gullible, and have no intention of allowing even a Democrat-controlled Senate to actually vote on it.”
NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said, “The Blumenthal bill is really just an updated version of the old ‘Freedom of Choice Act,’ which has been around for a quarter-century – but now they say it still needs work in a committee before it is fit for the Senate to vote on it? Blumenthal’s refusal to agree to a prompt vote on his own bill is laughable.”
Reid told a reporter that Graham’s bill was merely evidence that Graham “keeps moving further to the right.” In fact, Graham has maintained a strong pro-life record during his nearly two decades in Congress, and is the original author of one of the most important pro-life laws ever enacted at the federal level, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Link to Carol Tobias statement.