WASHINGTON, D.C., August 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Are congressmen who vote against a bill because they believe it is not pro-life enough actually pro-abortion? The National Right to Life Committee warned that that is exactly how NRLC will portray their vote.
When the House of Representatives voted on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 1797) June, two congressmen voted against it because of a last-minute decision not to protect babies conceived through rape or incest.
LifeSiteNews.com has confirmed that the National Right to Life Committee told the NRLC “will regard a vote against this legislation, no matter what justification is offered, as a vote to allow unlimited abortion in the sixth month or later.”
Congressman Trent Franks' original bill barred abortionists from killing any unborn child who could feel pain, including those conceived in rape or incest.
Just days later, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia added an exception for rape or incest.
That led one state chapter, Georgia Right to Life (GRTL), to withdraw its endorsement of the bill.
The day before the vote, NRLC sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives urging them to support the bill, calling it the group's “top congressional priority for 2013” and “the most important single piece of pro-life legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.”
The letter, which is signed by NRLC Executive Director David N. O'Steen and Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, concludes:
“NRLC will regard a vote against this legislation, no matter what justification is offered, as a vote to allow unlimited abortion in the sixth month or later – and that is the way it will be reported in our scorecard of key right-to-life roll calls of the 113th Congress, and in subsequent communications from National Right to Life to grassroots pro-life citizens in every state.” (Emphasis in original.)
Monica Kelsey, who was conceived in rape, published the communication earlier this week.
Multiple sources have confirmed to LifeSiteNews.com that the letter is authentic and was sent to all members of the House of Representatives.
The full House passed the bill on Tuesday, June 18, by a 228-196 vote. Six Democrats voted yes, while six Republicans voted against the bill.
Two of them – Reps. Paul Broun and Rob Woodall of Georgia – did so because of Cantor's decision to water down the bill at the last minute.
Douglas Johnson made good on his word the day the bill passed. In a press release he singled out the Georgia delegation, saying NRLC was "extremely disappointed" in Congressmen Broun and Woodall, “the only lawmakers who identify themselves as pro-life but who voted against this bill."
Kelsey said that was out of bounds.
“This strategy from NRLC is degrading to me and my friends who fight every day to show the value of a child conceived in rape,” she wrote.
“Do Paul Braun and Rob Woodall of Georgia deserve to have NLRC tell their pro-life supporters nationwide that these good men are pro-choice and that they support the killing of babies after six months gestation?” she asked. “Does Eric Cantor deserve a [pro-life] PAC-endorsement while Paul Braun and Rob Woodall get trashed?”
One person who doesn't think so is Dan Becker, president of Georgia RTL.
“I was deeply disappointed when I received word that our 100 percent pro-life congressmen were being threatened by NRLC with censure if they voted as the majority of Georgians expected them to vote,” Becker told LifeSiteNews.com.
"Georgia is a no exceptions state,” Becker said. “By God's grace we have achieved the political objective of the pro-life movement.”
“Imagine the damage this does at a state level when our own national group is undermining our pro-life achievements,” he told LifeSiteNews.
He added, "The folks at NRLC are my friends and I appreciate their work, but their actions were detrimental."
Prominent pro-life activists across the country agreed.
“Since when did a 'scorecard' become more important than doing the right thing?” Abby Johnson wrote on her Facebook page. “I thought pro-lifers were in favor of protecting conscience rights...I guess until your conscience goes against theirs.”
“Thank you, Monica Kelsey, for exposing this,” she wrote.
Douglas Johnson and Jessica Rodgers of National Right to Life did not respond to multiple requests for comment over a period of days.
“I haven't heard of any such letter being sent to the Congressmen who introduced the rape exception,” said Kiessling, also a child of rape. “I haven't heard that they were threatened in any way, that they would lose their endorsement.”
“I realized now that this is why we had the Hyde Amendment with rape exceptions for 20 years,” Kiessling said. “This is why our laws are riddled with rape exceptions.”
Alaska Right to Life, which will not endorse candidates who allow abortion for rape or incest, did not have any difficulty with NRLC 's letter but understood how it might lead to organizational tension with some affiliates.
Its president, Chris Kurka, told LifeSiteNews, “If you go to a state that has great pro-life lawmakers and has achieved some of the goals that National Right to Life has outlined, I think it's problematic to undercut them.”
“Obviously, we think you can do pro-life incrementalism,” Kurka told LifeSiteNews. “But compromise should never come at a cost to our principles and our mission. I think there's too many pro-life bills out there that undermine the value of the unborn.”
The Alaska affiliate supported the 20-week bill but had concerns about over the rape/incest exception. “The language of our legislation needs to be consistent with our stated position,” Kurka said. Otherwise, “there's no reason for the public to take us seriously.”
However, at least one state that makes no exception for rape or incest expressed no concern over the NRLC letter.
“The precedent we have set in our state is that we have protected all life, no matter how the conception (came to be),” Pamela Sherstad, the director of public information, Right to Life of Michigan, told LifeSiteNews.
“As far as national legislation, we do follow the lead of National Right to Life,” Sherstad said. “It's a relationship, where you have to rely on their expertise.”
Sherstad told LifeSiteNews, if legislators in Lansing falter on, the chapter will become “proactive” to assure they “understand the rich history we have in Michigan of protecting life” at all stages.
Kiessling, who lives in Michigan, wishes NRLC would have done the same thing at the national level. “They could have slowed this things down, tried to sway them,” she said.
She said “dozens” of speakers – including herself, Kelsey, Ryan Bomberger, and Pam Stenzel, among others – would have defended the one percent of aborted children who were conceived in rape.
“It's punishing the child for the sins of the father,” Kurka said.
Kiessling worried the pro-life movement had sacrificed principle to maintain its close relationship with the Republican Party, which is increasingly skittish about standing up for children conceived in rape because of Democrats' “war on women” rhetoric.
Congress, for instance, liberalized laws on military bases to allow abortions in the case of rape, a move supported by Sen. John McCain.
“I'm not supposed to say anything, because my team is the Washington Generals, and they're the Harlem Globetrotters, and the game is fixed. We're not supposed to win,” Kiessling told LifeSiteNews.com. “We're just supposed to go along and play along with the while thing, and I can't do that.”
Kurka shared her concern about GOP ambivalence.
“I have a concern that the establishment of the Republican Party doesn't care about the pro-life cause. I'm concerned they're using the pro-life movement to get elected and do nothing,” Kurka said. “There are too many Republicans who are not serious about this.”
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“We're non-partisan,” Kurka told LifeSiteNews. “I show no mercy to Republicans.”
Kiessling said she expected to be – and was – attacked by pro-lifers for her stand. But all parties interviewed said NRLC was working in good faith, and that they want to work with the national leadership to advance a consistently pro-life stance.
“I know these are good-willed people who hate abortion just as much as I do. I disagree on their strategy,” Kiessling told LifeSiteNews. But she said the tactic was “unfair, extremely unjust, and absolutely hurting the cause of saving all.”
“These are my friends,” she said. “I care about them. But this strategy has taken it too far.”
Kelsey hoped publishing the letter will provoke a national discussion on the importance of saving 100 percent of the nation's unborn babies.
“I'd like to hear from all of you after reading the letter...Is this what you stand for?” she asked. “Or does the pro-life movement need to change its strategies and get serious about protecting all?”
LifeSiteNews.com made numerous attempts to contact NRLC officials for comment over several days. None were returned.