Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee passed legislation that would ban abortions in Washington, D.C. from taking place after 20 weeks past the gestation period. While it has no chance of passing the Senate or getting the President’s signature, the legislation is important for other reasons. From my May interview with pro-life activist Jill Stanek:
JS: It says any baby who is 20 weeks gestational age or older cannot be aborted for any reason except to save the life of the mother. There is no health exception. This law has been put into place in six states, and no abortion organization has filed a lawsuit claiming it to be unconstitutional because they are afraid they would lose at the Supreme Court.
Babies at 20 weeks feel pain, and probably before this. This is a losing issue for abortion proponents. How can you oppose protecting babies who are far along from pain?
Why is it coming through Congress now? D.C. has gutted all abortion restrictions in recent years and currently allows abortions at any time for any reason until birth (only five countries in the world have similarly abortion-friendly laws, including China, North Korea and Vietnam), and so this is in response to that, via Congress’ constitutional authority and responsibility.
Earlier this afternoon, I asked a Republican Hill staffer about the fetal pain bill and other pro-life legislation making their way through the House. Specifically, I asked why Republicans are spending time trying to defund Planned Parenthood in the FY 2013, for example, when the Senate and President clearly aren’t going to be in favor of such legislation and Senator Reid has abdicated his duty to pass a budget by September 30. According to the staffer:
Inclusion of language to defund Planned Parenthood and add new conscience protections is an important first step in getting these policies enacted. While it’s a safe bet that the FY13 appropriations bills won’t become law by the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), the contents of the bills approved by the Appropriations Committees will be the starting point for negotiations when the House and Senate finally do start negotiating a final appropriations package for fiscal year 2013—either during a December lame duck or early next year. Generally, only those policies included in House or Senate Committee-approved bills can be considered in the final conference deliberations.
With a Washington split between parties, enacting pro-life legislation is highly unlikely. But as the staffer and Stanek point out, the pro-life battle doesn’t end this year. This is a long battle that, with the HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate going into effect next month (except for the controversial religious component, which was delayed for a year), is likely to intensify for the rest of this year and into 2013.