Editor’s note: The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, on Thursday. Even within the pro-life movement there are differing opinions on the strategy behind the bill, and today LifeSiteNews is running opposing opinion pieces laying out the case for and against the bill. Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance argues in favour of the bill in her op-ed, “Why the pro-life movement should unite behind the pain-capable 20-week abortion ban,” available here.
The 114th Congress has decided to make the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act one of its legislative priorities. Rep. Trent Franks’ House Resolution (H.R.) 36 is the brainchild of several mainstream national pro-life organizations and is not new to Congress.
In 2013, the House passed a similar bill, but it never received a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Now, the House leadership intends to bring it to the floor next Thursday, January 22, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
While it could be a good sign that the GOP is willing to take up anything for the pro-life cause, a close analysis of this bill proves otherwise.
For starters, it is highly unlikely that this bill will be approved by Congress, for even if the bill passes the House, it will not be able get enough support in the Senate. But assuming that both houses of Congress were to pass the bill, President Obama is already on record stating that he will veto this type of bill. Given the supermajorities needed to overcome a presidential veto, this bill has almost no chance of becoming law or saving any children through its enforcement.
Of course, the fact alone that this bill cannot pass does not mean that it should be opposed. Many good legislative measures are meant primarily to educate the public or to make incremental gains toward an end goal. Unfortunately, H.R. 36 is so morally and logically flawed as to fail as a teaching or incremental tool.
These are the reasons why pro-lifers should oppose H.R. 36:
1. The bill is a prime example of pro-life legislation that makes pro-lifers complicit with the crime of abortion.
The operative section of the bill is titled “requirements for abortion.” In that section, the bill lays out the procedures that have to be followed in order to legally murder a child in the womb.
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To illustrate the moral recklessness involved in this bill, imagine if we substituted abortion with the morally equivalent crime of infanticide. No matter how bad the status quo were, can you imagine advocating a bill that contained a section entitled “requirements for infanticide”?
2. This bill is based on a value judgement about the dignity of life that is contrary to our core principles.
H.R. 36 puts a heavy emphasis on the fact that there is “substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization.” But this is not why pro-lifers seek to abolish abortion. Abortion is not wrong because it produces pain – which it undeniably does both to the child and the mother – abortion is wrong because it takes the life of an innocent human being. Could we look that 19-week-old child in the eyes and tell her that we advocated to allow abortionists to legally dismember her because she was a week away from feeling pain?
3. This bill unjustly discriminates against the weakest and most defenseless.
The bill also specifically allows abortion to murder children older than 20 weeks if they are conceived through rape or incest. Don’t these children deserve to have their life legally protected just as much as any other? Do we really believe that the law should allow an innocent child to be punished more severely than the rapist or the person committing incest?
4. This bill falsely claims direct abortion can be a legitimate medical treatment.
Lastly, H.R. 36 also includes an exception for the life of the mother that plays into the abortionist's argument that direct abortion is a legitimate medical procedure. In fact, hundreds of experienced OBGYN’s have attested that abortion is never medically necessary.
Without justifying abortion, the law could easily provide doctors the flexibility they need to treat pregnant women in medical emergencies. In South Dakota’s HB 1215, this simple language took care of the situation in which a pregnant woman might be in need of emergency medical treatment: “… medical treatment provided to the mother by a licensed physician which results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death to the unborn child is not a violation of this statute.”
Some misguided but well-intentioned pro-life groups argue that we should support flawed legislation such as H.R. 36 because it is all that we can achieve at the moment. But what can we really achieve right now with H.R. 36? It is clear that H.R. 36 does not have the necessary votes to overcome a presidential veto, and the educational value that it might have is negated by its deeply flawed value judgements.
Other pro-lifers state that since some polls show that the American people support this legislation it will force the pro-abortion congressmen who vote against the bill to actively oppose a popular bill and therefore appear to be radical. However, it is clear that the American people know perfectly well that the president and his party, as well as most “moderate” Republicans, are unapologetic abortion proponents. Their pro-abortion record is long and they stand proudly by it, there is no need for more political games.
Isn’t it time that we pro-lifers started standing by what we believe in, instead of trying to play political games?
H.R. 36 is morally unconscionable and doomed to failure.
The pro-life movement and the GOP can do better than this. The rank and file pro-lifer deserves better legislation than H.R. 36, but if we advocates don't demand it, we will never get it.
Gualberto Garcia Jones is the National Policy Director of the Personhood Alliance.