The Republican-controlled House may have buckled to pressure earlier this month on the issue of banning late-term abortions, but the setback did not deter them from taking a stand for the sanctity of unborn life during the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The day marked the 42nd anniversary of the historic Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision. GOP pro-life advocates in the House resurrected a bill to permanently halt federal funding of abortion, which died in the then Democratic-controlled Senate last year. The move illustrates the fine line pro-life supporters in politics have to walk to convince their conservative base that they are fighting for their most cherished values while not alienating the majority of voters whose beliefs do not align with traditional right wing convictions.
The vote divided almost perfectly on party lines, passing by a 242-179 majority with nearly 97 percent of the 435 elected representatives voting. The bill aims to prohibit the federal government from providing funds to cover abortions, as well as eliminate tax credits for individuals and employers who elect abortion coverage on their health plans under Obamacare; and prevent D.C. from funding abortions for low-income women. Following on the heels of the House GOP abandoning the plan to vote during the March for Life on banning late term abortions after 20 weeks, the vote highlights the precarious political path required of those who would take a stand on the integrity of their values without sacrificing their political careers. The plan was scrapped because of pressure from Republican women and younger voters who are leery of government restrictions on personal matters.
Many believe that the bill is doomed to failure in the Senate again, although with Republicans in control this time, its ultimate fate in passing both houses of Congress is dubious at best. ABC News points out that even if it should pass in Congress, it still has to run the gauntlet in the White House where the president could still veto the measure. Given that the conservative Republican values upon which the anti-abortion measure is based clash with the sociopolitical climate of post-modern liberal thought, some feel that the bill has no chance of actually being written into law. Signing off on it could prove an expensive risk for the Democrats who do not want to antagonize their socially progressive base. Nonetheless, passing the measure in the House while thousands of pro-life protesters marched in the streets of Washington, D.C. sends the message to voters that the newly elected Republican leaders are at least making a sincere effort to represent their constituents’ voices in the struggle to limit or put a stop to legalized abortion.
President Obama defended Roe vs. Wade saying that it attests to the fact that Americans hold their health care decisions as a private and personal matter in which government has no business interfering. He expresses concern that the anti-abortion funding bill would infringe on women’s autonomy in their health care choices and curb customers’ private insurance options. Republican representatives, whose objections brought about the scuttling of the late-term abortion vote, came under much criticism from the right to life camp for abandoning the trust of their pro-life constituents. Several female representatives hesitated over the requirement for a police report in cases of exceptions for rape and incest. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life organization suggests that it could cost them dearly.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged in a written statement that the march and this vote are only part of a much longer fight to protect unborn children. He urged fellow Republicans to listen carefully to one another when disagreements on the issues arise and rejoice when they can find a point of commonality to move forward together, such as Thursday’s defunding vote.
Emotions ran high on both sides during the debate, with Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) insisting that the healthcare controversy only obscures the fact that abortion is a separate matter, which terminates thousands of unborn lives every year. While they urged fellow legislators to show solidarity with the marchers in voting for the bill, Democrats saw it as an opportunistic, self-serving move to play up to the energy of the moment in placating the protesters and mollifying onlooking conservative voters with a grand gesture on their behalf at the expense of women’s rights. Nonetheless, many Republicans are willing to risk their approval ratings with the general public in order to take a stand for what they believe is right in defending the lives of the thousands of unborn children that fall victim to abortion every year.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of Beechwood Photography – Flickr License