U.S. Congressman: Pro-Life ‘Turf Battle’ Preventing Vote on Bill to Ban Nearly All Abortions

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By Claire Chretien, LifeSiteNews, Jan. 12, 

Claire ChretienWASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life groups and members of Congress are divided over whether on the day of the March for Life, the U.S. House should vote on a bill that would ban nearly all abortions, or instead a bill to ban infanticide after botched abortions.

The Heartbeat Protection Act would make it illegal to abort babies whose heartbeats can be detected.

“It’s the most protective incremental bill in existence,” said one of its organizers, Janet Porter of Faith2Action.

The U.S. House is slated to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would expand Bush-era anti-infanticide protections for babies born alive during botched abortions, on January 19 as hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists march through D.C.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act has 87 cosponsors. The Heartbeat Protection Act has 169 cosponsors.

Fetal heartbeats begin at 21 days and can usually be measured around six weeks into pregnancy.

Under the Heartbeat Bill, babies with detectable heartbeats who are conceived in rape cannot be aborted.

The pro-lifers behind the Heartbeat Bill argue that their bill should be voted on during the March for Life.

One Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, is a cosponsor of the Heartbeat Bill.

Since the original Born-Alive Bill became law in 2002, undercover investigations have revealed abortionists let babies “expire” or don’t give them life-saving care if they survive a late-term abortion.

Jill Stanek is a nurse who witnessed late-term babies born alive during abortion procedures and left to die. She now works as the Susan B. Anthony List’s National Campaign Chair.

“Horrific crimes are taking place in abortion facilities around the country. Children born alive are denied medical care and left to die – cold, alone, abandoned and discarded like medical waste,” she said. “From Kermit Gosnell’s ‘house of horrors,’ to a D.C. abortionist admitting he would not intervene to save the baby, to a former Planned Parenthood medical director stating that the main consideration when determining whether to provide lifesaving care is who’s watching, pleading ignorance is not an option. This is infanticide, plain and simple. Everyone should be able to agree on equal protection under the law for these children.”

“We thank Leader McCarthy for bringing this bill to a vote,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “It makes an excellent companion to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed last October and would end the cruel late-term abortions that are so likely to produce born-alive survivors. The House has been a dynamo generating pro-life legislation over the past year and momentum is clearly building. Senate colleagues must do their part and hold a vote.”

Although SBA has been championing the Born-Alive and Pain-Capable Bills, “we support the Heartbeat legislation” its communications director Mallory Quigley told LifeSiteNews.

One of President Trump’s campaign promises to the pro-life movement was to sign the Pain-Capable Bill into law. It passed the U.S. House 237-186 last year.

Pro-life activists who focus on passing laws like the Pain-Capable Bill to end most late-term abortions or the Born-Alive Bill to stop infanticide put pro-abortion Democrats in an uncomfortable position. When Democrats voted against the Pain-Capable Bill in 2017, they were literally voting to keep legal late-term abortions on babies capable of feeling pain (who often can survive if born prematurely).

If the U.S. House votes on the Born-Alive bill during the March for Life, Democrats’ pro-abortion extremism will again be revealed as they vote against a bill stopping infanticide.

Some people say that bans on dismemberment abortion and/or late-term abortion on pain-capable babies are more likely to hold up under Supreme Court scrutiny, meaning they could significantly chip away at or even undo Roe v. Wade.

The Heartbeat Bill supporters also argue that their bill will be upheld by the Supreme Court, especially after President Trump makes his next appointment to the court when a justice dies or retires.

“The next appointment to the Supreme Court makes it very likely that a Heartbeat Bill would be upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court,” the Heartbeat Bill’s sponsor Rep. Steve King, R-IA, told LifeSiteNews.

Voting to allow abortions on babies with beating hearts would also likely speak volumes about the beliefs of pro-abortion Democrats.

Republican leadership apparently unwilling to vote unless NRLC gives stamp of approval

The Heartbeat bill’s architect, Janet Porter of Faith2Action, and Rep. King believe National Right to Life (NRLC) and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, are betraying the pro-life movement by preventing a vote on this bill.

It’s a pro-life “turf battle,” King told LifeSiteNews, in which both sides are very attached to their strategies.

“Can you believe it?” King posted on Facebook. “A ‘pro-life’ activist group is actually attempting to block a pro-life bill! This is absolutely insane and they need to be called out on their hypocrisy ASAP.”

King posted a link to NRLC’s “contact” page and urged those in support of the Heartbeat Bill to call them.

ImageRep. Steve King, R-IA, wears his Heartbeat Bill pin during a Congressional hearing on the legislationClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

NRLC disputed King’s claims.

“National Right to Life President Carol Tobias personally told Rep. King that we do not oppose his heartbeat legislation,” Tatiana Bergum, NRLC’s deputy press secretary, told LifeSiteNews. “We don’t understand why he is singling out National Right to Life for his unfair attacks.”

“We are focused on supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Born-Alive Infant Survivor Act, and the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act,” said Bergum.

King told LifeSiteNews that if the Susan B. Anthony List, Family Research Council, and National Right to Life all supported the bill, it would be brought to the floor for a vote.

“The only organization that we can identify that’s not publicly endorsing and supporting the bill is National Right to Life,” he said. “I think National Right to Life needs to decide to lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

In response to Tobias’ remarks, King said Tobias should “pick up the phone and call Speaker Ryan.”

King and Porter maintain that the onus is on NRLC to actively support the bill because that is the only way Republican leadership will allow a vote on it.

If Tobias gives her approval to Ryan to vote on the bill, “I guarantee it will come to the floor for a vote. And the lack of doing so blocks the movement of the bill,” said King. That’s all she has to do.”

It remains unclear why members of Congress feel they must have approval from NRLC to vote on a bill.

Republicans spar over which bill to put forward

“How on earth can we protect children if members of our own party stand in the way?” King’s Facebook post asked of his colleague McCarthy.

McCarthy’s office sent LifeSiteNews a statement arguing the Born-Alive Bill is “another important step” in implementing pro-life legislation.

“This House has proudly stood for life, passing bill after bill to stop taxpayer funding for abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, protect conscience rights, and severely limit abortions themselves,” said McCarthy. “We have stood hand-in-hand with our allies throughout the pro-life community to make this one of the most pro-life Houses in history. Next week’s vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act is another important step to our goal of saving lives, helping mothers, and protecting the most vulnerable members of our population.”

The March for Life didn’t respond to multiple enquiries about its stance on the Heartbeat Bill.

“We are happy the House is voting that week on born alive and hope the Senate follows suit to vote on the pain capable bill around the same time,” Tom McClusky, Vice President of Government Affairs at the March for Life, told LifeSiteNews via email. “We are honored to work in a coalition with FRC, National Right to Life, SBA List and all the great pro-life groups to push Congress to be bolder for protecting the unborn.”

King said that in a meeting, McClusky had been “a voice of encouragement” for the Heartbeat Bill.

Several national pro-life groups to whom LifeSiteNews reached out regarding the Born-Alive and Heartbeat Bills did not respond.

Both factions in this quarrel say public opinion polling is on their side.

Are pro-lifers too cautious or not cautious enough?

King said that during a January 10 Pro-Life Caucus meeting, nearly a dozen or so legislators expressed support for the Heartbeat Bill.

“Chris Smith chairs [the caucus] and Andy Harris is co-chair now in the absence of Trent Franks,” said King. “Andy [Harris] is very solidly in support of this bill.” Rep. Smith is a Republican from New Jersey and Rep. Harris is a Republican from Maryland.

“There was caution that was voiced by Chris Smith” that essentially was “we might hurt ourselves by doing too much,” said King. King noted he and Smith remain close and have a good relationship.

“We have been too cautious in the past,” said King. “But now we have a pro-life majority in the House, a pro-life majority in the Senate – as difficult as it is to get to 60 votes in the Senate – [and] a president that’ll sign the bill.”

“National Right to Life has been arguing that the Supreme Court won’t uphold” the Heartbeat Bill, he said. “I think the argument’s stronger in upholding the Heartbeat Bill than it is in upholding the Pain-Capable Bill.”

“I don’t wanna disparage [the] Pain-Capable” Bill, said King, who is one of its cosponsors. “But that bill was written during the Obama era with the idea that Obama could be convinced to sign it. It wasn’t written with the expectation that we would have a president that would actually sign a pro-life bill…the Heartbeat Bill is written with that” understanding.

“It’s time for us to be bold and confident and strong. We’re a pro-life nation now,” King argued.

King is also a cosponsor of the Born-Alive Bill.

The Heartbeat Bill “has more than earned a place” on the U.S. House floor, said King. He said soon he’ll be left with two choices: “simply give up and put the bill in the drawer” or “do the things that now make people uncomfortable.”

“I know if I have to answer to God which one He’ll tell me I need to do,” said King. “He’ll say, ‘save the babies. Don’t worry about people’s feelings; save the babies.’”

“I’m not interested in people’s egos; I’m interested in saving the lives of babies,” he said. And if he’s unsuccessful in bringing the Heartbeat Bill to the floor for a vote, “I’ll be obligated to do everything that I can do that is within the rules and within the morals and ethics and standards that each of us should have.”

‘This is your moment to act’

ImageJanet Porter, the architect of and main lobbyist for the Heartbeat BillClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, is speaking at the March for Life, along with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-IL, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ.

“If people want to end abortion, they need to mount grassroots pressure like never before,” said Porter. “The easiest way to do that is to click one button to send seven faxes to the ones who can call for a Heartbeat Bill floor vote in Congress. You can do that at Faith2Action.org.”

“There’s no reason not to do it…I’m actually losing money” by funding this, said Porter. “If you want to do more than march to end abortion, this is your moment to act.”