The “exception”-al Pain-Capable Act

visitthecapitol.gov photo
visitthecapitol.gov photo

I just sent an email to my Member of Congress, asking him to support a piece of legislation that will probably come up in Washington late this afternoon: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s as flawed a life-issue bill as I’ll see this year in either Washington or Concord. Still, I hope it passes. And I definitely want to see who-votes-how. [Update, 5:45 p.m.: the measure passed, 242-184.]

In the absence of a clean up-or-down vote on late-term abortion, this bill is the next best thing. Don’t go looking in this bill for an affirmation of a right to life from conception to natural death; it ain’t there. This bill proposes restrictions on mid- and late-term abortions, not a ban. It doesn’t confer “personhood” and it doesn’t even apply to preborn children in the first half of pregnancy. It may or may not be good news to you that the bill poses no threat to Roe v. Wade. And still, I asked my congressman to vote Yea.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, speaking as a no-holds-barred supporter of the legislation:

“Limiting abortion at 5 months of pregnancy, as an unborn child becomes able to live outside the womb and as the abortion procedure becomes even more dangerous for women, is a commonsense law long overdue….[I]t deals directly with the ugly reality of abortion, which hurts both mother and child who are exposed to an industry willing to harm people for profit.”

Not so coincidentally, today is the second anniversary of the conviction of noted Philadelphia butcher Kermit Gosnell. Supporters of Pain-Capable see passage as a fitting way to mark the date. Earlier this year, the bill was scheduled for a vote on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, before it was sidetracked. (Nurse Jill Stanek has done all she can to make House Speaker John Boehner bring back the bill. Bound4Life has an interesting interview with her on the subject.)

A good – nay, great – provision in the bill: it calls on anyone terminating a post-20-week pregnancy to do so in a manner which “in reasonable medical judgment provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive,” consistent with the safety of the mother. No snipping, doctors.

And then there are a couple of sticky points that won’t go away.

Finer minds than mine came up with the title, which acknowledges how squeamish many people are about “terminating” a post-20-week preborn child who “reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human.” That’s from the text of the bill, in the Findings section. Great. Imposing pain except for therapeutic purposes (can I pop that dislocated shoulder back into place for you?) is to be avoided. The danger comes when that leads to the conclusion that anesthetizing the intended victim would be some kind of solution. Would that make abortion more palatable? How about anesthetizing people being subjected to forced sterilization or euthanasia? Would that make the procedures somehow all right, as long as no one feels pain? No. I recognize of course that the bill’s sponsors have no intention of going down that road.

There is also … wait for it … a rape-and-incest exception. The hashtag for the Twitterfest on this bill is #theyfeelpain. I almost want to counter with #theyfeelpaintoobutnevermind. The redoubtable Abby Johnson is simply using #NoExceptions.

Still, I’ve supported policies with such exceptions before, notably the Hyde Amendment. Did you realize that Hyde only restricts the use of federal Health and Human Services funds for abortion in certain government programs? Other federal funds are unaffected. Did you know that it’s not automatic, but has to be renewed each budget cycle? That it has those exceptions I mentioned? And still, I support it and I even want to see it expanded to cover more federal departments.

I’ve asked Congressman Guinta to support H.R. 36. He knows I’m watching.  How about you?

 

Henry Hyde’s enduring work

A couple of weeks ago, I let an important day slip by without comment. Time to make amends. I hereby note the thirty-seventh anniversary of the Hyde Amendment. In 1976, it was the first substantive federal measure to limit the use of tax dollars for abortion. To this day, abortion providers hate it, even though it has exceptions. Those exceptions have led some pro-lifers to oppose it, too.

I’m not one of them. Anything that limits access to my pocket by abortion providers is okay with me. I’m no expert on the measure, but here is what I’ve seen of it (and yes, I’m old enough to have been around when it was first passed).

In 1976, Henry Hyde (RIP) was a Congressman representing an area just outside Chicago. He had been elected in 1974 and was to serve in the House for thirty-two years. In ’76, though, he was just another congressman barely known outside his district. That changed when he drafted a rider to the federal Health, Education, and Welfare budget to keep federal funds from being used to fund abortions within HEW programs, particularly Medicaid. (HEW was later folded into the Department of Health and Human Services.) He persuaded his colleagues to accept that rider, which has been attached to every HHS budget since.

The amendment (rider, actually) has outlived its author. Hyde died in 2007, just a few months after leaving office.

The amendment has been through some changes. Exceptions for funding abortions in case of rape, incest, and health of the mother were added. Abortion advocates dragged the amendment to the Supreme Court, and the measure survived. All this, just to put somewhere into federal law a way to keep pro-life Americans from helping to fund the abortion industry.

We’re not totally disentangled from the industry, by a long shot. Hyde applies only to the HHS budget. The rider could be dropped anytime, despite its long standing. States may use their own funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. Now, Obamacare is creating new ways to force taxpayers into collusion with abortion providers, chiefly through the HHS mandate.

Even so, thanks to the foresight of an Illinois congressman, abortion funding has never been something that abortion providers can take for granted. Providers cast Hyde’s work as something that discriminates against poor women. They evince no similar concern for the poor children killed by abortion.

I think well of Henry Hyde. I hope his tenacity will serve as an example to pro-life elected officials for a long time to come.