I am Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. National Right to Life is the nation’s oldest and largest single-issue pro-life organization, with 50 state affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters.
When the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, our understanding of the development of the capacity to experience pain was so rudimentary that even a newborn undergoing surgery did not receive anesthesia – only a paralytic to keep them still. Nowadays we know better. Indeed, today pain-capable unborn children are treated as patients, being operated on in-utero.
Yet, despite substantial medical evidence that unborn children are capable of experiencing pain by at least 20 weeks post-fertilization, late abortions are still a regular occurrence in the United States. Abortions performed at this stage of pregnancy use a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool.
We are proud to join today with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and the many other senators and other political leaders in calling on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to allow the Senate to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S. 1670. This bill 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 unfortunately vetoed by the governor, with no opportunity for an override vote. We are hopeful that South Carolina may soon join the list. In addition, over the past couple of years, legislatures in several other states have approved bills that demonstrate their desire to limit abortions at least by the fifth month of pregnancy.
Numerous polls have shown broad public support for this type of legislation – usually with women even more supportive than men.
In recent interviews, Senator Graham has made a bold proposal: That Majority Leader Reid should schedule side-by-side votes on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and on S. 1696, the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) last November, with much fanfare from the major pro-abortion advocacy groups.
The Blumenthal legislation, if enacted and upheld by the federal courts, would invalidate nearly all state limitations on abortion, including specific types of abortion-related laws that have been held by the U.S. Supreme Court not to violate any constitutional right – indeed, the prohibitions in the bill would apply even if the U.S. Supreme Court entirely repudiates Roe v. Wade and the other rulings that were built on Roe.
Among the types of state laws that would be invalidated by the bill are 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 an aura of political protection that produced results such as we saw in the Gosnell trial. The Blumenthal bill would effectively leave women at the unregulated mercy of the most incompetent, mercenary, or biased abortion practitioners.
Of course, the Blumenthal bill would also invalidate the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection laws enacted by 10 states — and further, would require all states to allow abortion even during the final three months of pregnancy based on an abortionist’s claim of “health” benefits – which Blumenthal acknowledged, in an interview with The Weekly Standard, includes claims based on emotional and psychological “health.”
In short, under this bill, the unborn child would have no more rights, from conception until birth, than a malignant tumor. 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.
In the past, we’ve often seen a proclivity among many in the mainstream news media to pay little attention to the details of abortion-related bills that are under active consideration in Congress, in favor of endless extrapolations regarding obscure and vague legislative proposals that are unlikely to ever come to a vote. I submit that the Graham and Blumenthal bills are more worthy of serious attention from the news media. Here we have two bills that have been proclaimed as top priorities by the major advocacy groups on the opposing sides.
I underscore that NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and other major pro-abortion advocacy groups have proclaimed that the Blumenthal legislation incorporates their public policy vision for the United States and is a top priority for their respective organizations. In a November 19 fund-raising solicitation on the new bill, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said “it’s become crystal clear that we need to go on the offensive.” Moreover, in an interview with the newspaper Roll Call, Senator Blumenthal said, “As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues.”
Well, we agree. Senator Graham’s bill and Senator Blumenthal’s bill propose starkly different abortion policies for our nation. By all means, let’s let voters see where every member of the U.S. Senate stands on both of these bills, by having side-by-side votes on the two measures – not as not-germane amendments to unrelated legislation, not with one bill as an amendment to the other, but successive clean up or down votes on each measure, each shielded from second-degree amendments by a unanimous consent agreement.
Obviously, no senator would support both bills. If any senator opposes both bills, let him or her vote that way, and then explain why he or she believes that the status quo is to be preferred – which is a position that has little support, judging from national public opinion polls.
So then, National Right to Life would certainly encourage all pro-life senators to agree to a unanimous consent agreement that would allow such clean, side-by-side votes on these two landmark measures. But if Majority Leader Reid declines to accept Senator Graham’s proposal, then you can take that as clear evidence that despite all of those bold statements by the leaders of pro-abortion advocacy groups about going “on the offensive” with this new bill, and despite Senator Blumenthal’s clear statement about the importance of finding out where every legislator stands, 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.
Senator Reid and the others who control the scheduling of legislation in the current U.S. Senate are solid allies of the abortion lobby – we all will watch with interest how they respond to Senator Graham’s proposal.