Reflections on House Passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act , Part One

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-Life Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Pro-Life Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

In addition to the usual factual mistakes, the brunt, it seems, of many news accounts of Tuesday’s House vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 1797) is that (a) the bill is not going anywhere in the Senate, so why bother?; and (b) the bill was brought up merely to assuage those crazy, bothersome pro-lifers.

One thread misses the whole point, the latter is that cynicism-on steroids-approach that dominates much media coverage (of the pro-life side) of the abortion debate.

So what happened with yesterday’s 228-196 vote? Glad you asked. I could list a dozen components, but here are just five.

First, for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of all but six House Democrats, the House of Representatives has now said No! to taking the lives of those unborn babies who are capable of experiencing pain. Based on the scientific literature, that development juncture is reached by 20 weeks fetal age.

To be clear, as NRLC’s Don Parker wrote today, “Every baby deserves our protection. As we work for the day that the Supreme Court will let us protect the life of every unborn baby, let us now pass every protection the Supreme Court will allow, and that starts with ending the barbarity of killing unborn babies when they can experience such excruciating pain.”

Second, while it is true that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) will not lift a finger to defend pain-capable unborn children, it does not necessarily follow that senators will be off the hook on this issue. Stay tuned. And at the risk of belaboring the obvious, take any movement for fundamental justice in our nation’s history and what will you will see? That ultimate success required time and persistence but also something pro-abortionists could never understand—an unwavering confidence in the fundamental decency of the American people.

This brings to mind a conversation I had earlier today with a “pro-choice” acquaintance who is always telling me that pro-lifers rely on “emotion.”

Not true. We begin with the facts—that abortion is a fundamental assault on the core values that hold a civilized society together and that abortion is soul-sappingly violent. We don’t need to “inject” emotion (my acquaintance’s inference). Empathy (and revulsion) are a natural human response once a conscience is awakened from a deep slumber. That’s what the grotesque actions of the likes of abortionist Kermit Gosnell have helped to make come true. That and the eloquence of lawmakers not just in Washington, DC, but around the country as well.

Third, once you get passed the ritual pro-abortion “it insults women” canard, the only two defenses they have are to deny that the unborn can feel pain (not true) and that the law is demonstrably “unconstitutional.” You can go all the way back to the late 1970s and hear echoes of that dismissive put down—in that case, that the Hyde Amendment was unconstitutional. Or back in the mid-1990s when we were told the ban on partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional. In both cases, the Supreme Court upheld the laws.

Fourth, there is such a thing as the “Gosnell effect.” He may—or may NOT—be unique, in the sense of deliberating aborting babies alive and then murdering them. But what the murder trial of this demented West Philadelphia abortionist accomplished—besides putting him away for good—is that it has started a national conversation: what IS the moral difference between legally killing a child later in pregnancy in utero and delivering that child alive and then killing him or her ex utero?

We’ve written about the incoherent response of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to just that question, posed by John McCormack of the Weekly Standard. (See “Giving Pelosi a Mulligan–Again”) Pelosi combined petulance with evasion and blatant misstatements to circumvent the question. Understandable: that’s all they got.

And fifth, to those who trivialize the pro-life commitment of the leadership of the House of Representatives and almost all of the Republican members, let’s remember the backdrop for everything they try to do (to quote Republican House Speaker John Boehner) “to defend the defenseless” and “fight to ensure our nation’s laws respect the sanctity of unborn human life.” For honoring what Boehner called this “moral obligation,” they will be mocked, ridiculed, told they are wasting time on “unimportant” issues, and belittled.

Yesterday was a very, very important day in our quest to rescue the most defenseless among us. We should all say, “Thank you!”