WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – This afternoon, pro-life leaders from 14 right to life groups across the country demanded that House Speaker John Boehner pass a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks. This time, they didn't get arrested – but they didn't get a meeting with the Speaker's staff, either.
The pro-life advocates gathered for prayer and protest in front of Boehner's offices in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. The activists were protesting what Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition have previously called a “betrayal” by the House GOP over its inability, or unwillingness, to pass H.R. 36, the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”
The bill, which was expected to pass the House during the 2015 March for Life, was held up by concerns by Renee Ellmers, Jackie Walorski, and a handful of Republican members who objected that the bill only allowed late-term abortion if a rape victim reported the crime to police before aborting her child. Pro-life activists say doing away with this provision would force officials to take abortionists' word that the children they aborted were conceived in rape.
This time, the diverse coalition of pro-life leaders held a press conference in front of the building, then walked to Boehner's office. There, approximately a dozen people prayed, made brief statements about the lack of action on this legislation, and knocked on the locked door.
Mahoney, one of the organizers of today's protest, noted that Boehner's door is consistently locked. He also criticized the speaker's staff for not answering the door, which Mahoney said they have done in the past, and which was done when LifeSiteNews knocked on the door nearly two hours before the protest started.
“It is with a sense of profound sadness that…Speaker Boehner…did not even have the decency or courtesy or decorum to even answer the door” for the activists “who helped make him Speaker,” said Mahoney.
Organizer Jill Stanek, who was not at today's protest, told LifeSiteNews that she believes that holding meetings with legislators isn't necessarily how her coalition best moves the pro-life movement forward. “We've got policy groups in D.C. We've got activist groups in flyover country. And the policy groups meet with, and have relationships with, all of these people on a daily basis,” she said. “For us to go in and request a meeting about this bill, I would look at it as interference with the [D.C.-based groups'] process.”
“We know the process is underway. Our people are letting us know what's going on, to the best of their knowledge. Our point is to apply pressure to Speaker Boehner,” she said. “Finish your process and get this bill to the floor of the House and pass it!”
“Everyone has a role to play,” Mahoney told LifeSiteNews. “Ours is more the public witness. We would not want to do anything to undermine the process. And we've actually viewed our events as coming alongside many of the groups in D.C. that handle the political end of things.”
This time, any thought of meeting was moot, because the door was literally closed — and locked.
“I find that extremely troubling,” said the activist, who later told LifeSiteNews that “we knew the speaker wouldn't be here. We knew Congress is not in session right now.”
When asked by LifeSiteNews as to whether the coalition had attempted to set up a meeting with Boehner or his staff to discuss H.R. 36, Mahoney said, “They knew we were going to be here, they knew we were going to pray. We were here to talk, we were here to share.”
Mahoney insisted that while he understood why Boehner's staff keeps the door locked. “The door's locked because Speaker Boehner has had some unfortunate things with people almost bursting in and holding demonstrations,” Rev. Mahoney said. “That is something we would never do. We always work with law enforcement.”
Mahoney says he told Capitol Police that there would be no civil disobedience in today's protest, and he said his organization had no plans to demonstrate in Boehner's office.
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Unlike their previous protest, which led to eight arrests by Capitol Police after an informal press conference in front of Boehner's office, no arrests were made today.
During the protest, Mahoney said that unless H.R. 36 passes the House, his group would be back in approximately a month to again protest the lack of action by the House.
The protesters have some support inside the GOP's ranks. Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas told LifeSiteNews that the 20-week ban should have passed the House long ago.
“The bill to protect five-month-old babies from abortion should have been brought to the floor in January, February, March, and April,” said the Congressman. “Just last week, GOP leadership again promised us to bring the bill up for a vote soon. I am absolutely confident we had the votes to pass the bill in January and still will when the promises are kept to move forward on this pro-life priority.”
In a memo sent to GOP staffers and Members, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA — who decides what bills receive a vote on the House floor – said, “I…remain committed to completing H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Franks).”
“Exact timing for consideration of these bills,” he said, “will be relayed as soon as possible.”
Rev. Mahoney said he let the Speaker's office know of the upcoming protest but did not ask for a meeting due to scheduling concerns.
Boehner spokesperson Olivia Hnat told LifeSiteNews that “The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act remains a priority for the House, and the Speaker is optimistic that it will be brought to the floor for a vote soon.”
Hnat did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about the policy of opening the speaker's door.
The full coalition that protested in favor of H.R. 36 included:
CEC For Life
Christian Defense Coalition
Citizens for a Pro-Life Society
Maryland Coalition for Life
Pro-Life Action League
Pro-Life Action Ministries
Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust
Bud Shaver, Executive Director of Protest ABQ
Apostle Manny Lardizabal, New Mexico Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN) State Leader