Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a major bill to ban the gruesome practice of aborting a child at 20 weeks and beyond, followed by the Senate’s introduction of a similar bill two days later. Bearing a jarringly descriptive title, this marks the third go-round since 2013 for the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” at the national level and could have the immediate effect of sparing the lives of 10,000 babies who are aborted at 20 weeks and beyond in the United States every year.
But although the bill enjoys wide support among voters across demographic and party lines—the 20-week mark has already been adopted in 16 states— it’s also highly unlikely to ever reach the Senate floor for a vote. In fact, even though President Donald Trump has pledged to sign it into law if it reaches his desk, the bill may not even reach the Senate floor for debate.
That’s not cynicism talking, it’s the bill’s Republican sponsors, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY). In an article published Thursday, Politico summed up the conundrum for the GOP’s Senate leadership. In short, for the bill to stand a chance of landing on Trump’s desk, Senate Republicans would likely need to remove the filibuster rule and move ahead with a simple majority of votes, rather than holding out for the 60-vote threshold that’s currently in place.
Fearful that Democrats could regain power in the Senate—as well as the House and Oval Office—and push through future legislation of their own, Republican leaders are urging pro-life constituents to wait for a more opportune time, with Graham assuring voters the bill’s “time will come.”
Meanwhile, GOP leaders also seem unwilling to—at the very least—force Democrats to filibuster in defense of an absolutist position on abortion that squares better with North Korea and China than the land between New York City and Los Angeles.
Inhumane Callousness on the Left
Although the bill arrived all but dead to the Senate, abortion enthusiasts on the Left reacted with the sort of understated grace and winsomeness we’ve come to expect from those who see ending a child’s life through abortion as an intrinsic good. When Graham first introduced the Senate version on October 5, abortion lobbyist group NARAL Pro-Choice America sent out an email featuring the tragically ironic headline, “They’re DEAD SET on an abortion ban,” with text indicting GOP lawmakers for introducing the bill in the wake of Hurricane Maria and the murderous rampage in Las Vegas.
The timing of a bill that will rescue 10,000 preborn babies a year is unseemly, says NARAL, since people in Puerto Rico are doing without electricity while others are mourning the loss of loved ones murdered in Las Vegas. Saving lives will need to wait until a proper time, when no lives are in danger.
Nor was this non sequitur relegated to the fundraising lists of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and their ilk. When the bill passed the House on October 3, The New York Times gave a platform to pro-abortion dissenters on the Left—including New York Rep. Louise Slaughter—who said they voted against protecting pain-capable unborn children from abortion because “barring automatic weapons was a better way to save lives.”
While it’s no surprise to find leftists in politics and the mainstream media linking gun deaths to abortion—two subjects on which they are the most adrift from the rest of the country—it is a bit shocking to see the Times call for “a better way to save lives” than capping abortion at 20 weeks.
If the flaw with outlawing abortion at 20 weeks (with broad exceptions for the mother’s health and life as defined by Roe v. Wade’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton) is that it’s an imperfect way to save lives, doesn’t that concede that actual lives are at stake in abortion?
Yet even though they recognize—at least implicitly—that abortion ends the life of a child, all but three Democrats in the House were so beholden to their party’s platform calling for no limits on abortion that they voted against the pain-capable bill. Far more than any issue, abortion is the Left’s north star, which they will follow even if that means forcing Catholic nuns to foot the bill for abortifacients and cudgeling pro-life pregnancy centers into advertising the taxpayer-funded killing of unborn children.
Excessive Caution on the Right
What is far more disheartening than the abortion-enslaved Democrats’ incessant caterwauling, however, is the inability of GOP leaders—including but not limited to McConnell and Graham—to commit themselves to legislation that will directly save lives from abortion. Cowed to the threat of a Democratic filibuster, these GOP leaders, although well-intentioned, urge their constituents to continue waiting until a more opportune time to protect fully developed children in the womb.
Rather than forcing Democrats to explain why they are willing to shut down the government to abort babies even at a time they can and do survive outside the womb, Republicans are giving their colleagues a free pass under the simple threat of a filibuster.
Remember Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who made a name for herself in 2013 by donning pink shoes and filibustering a Texas bill that introduced gurney-width hallways and hospital admitting requirements to abortion clinics? Not only did the bill pass over her incessant shrieking, she was demolished in a bid for the Texas governorship the following year.
While the U.S. Supreme Court eventually struck down Texas’ 2013 legislation in its 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, Davis was forever exposed as a pro-abortion extremist meme with very little to offer beyond a lifetime supply of praise from—and of—the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Make no mistake, the GOP has plenty of tools at its disposal short of nuking the filibuster entirely, including a bevy of available rule changes to the filibuster itself. Unlike many choices in politics, this one’s not “binary.” The main question is whether Republicans on Capitol Hill are ready to show the courage to match their convictions, absorb the slander that’s sure to come pouring from the media, and insist that no government action can or should be undertaken while—at the very least—viable babies are being legally aborted in this nation.
‘The Time Is Always Ripe to Do Right’
In his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rebuked white Christian leaders who voiced ideological agreement with his civil rights campaign yet refused to join him in peaceful action, instead openly denouncing his nonviolent protests throughout the South. The inaction of these men, whom King considered his brothers, was a far more difficult pill to swallow than the outright racism and bigotry he suffered daily.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
As he appealed to his white brothers in the faith, King pushed against what he saw as their misguided belief that waiting for a more suitable time was the luxury of the non-oppressed. “The time is always ripe to do right,” King wrote.
There’s very little question that pro-life leaders in the Senate like McConnell and Graham share the same aims as the voters who put them into office. They, like those they stand alongside at national demonstrations like the annual March for Life in Washington DC, want to see as many lives as possible spared from abortion.
I’ve seen this desire firsthand each time I’ve visited congressional offices with mothers who chose life for their babies because of hands-on help from pro-life pregnancy centers, medical clinics, and maternity homes. I’ve witnessed the distinct joy and gratitude these leaders and their staff exude when they hold a child who was snatched from the jaws of the billion-dollar abortion industry.
For these children, there was no time to wait. Now was the time to do what was right. Now is the time to intervene to save a life, to start healing wounds from a past abortion, to spread a passion for every child from the moment of conception. Now is the time to come alongside a mother captured by the pernicious lie that she must choose between her child and her own success.
Now that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is on the table for the Senate, will they do right while the time is ripe?