It’s an unusually busy week on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers are tackling several pressing issues, many of which can’t wait, on everything from NSA surveillance to trade, infrastructure to Guantanamo Bay.
But despite all of this, House Republicans yesterday made time for one of their top legislative priorities: a culture-war bill they know won’t become law. The Associated Press reported:
Republicans finally won House approval Wednesday for a late-term abortion ban after dropping rape provisions that provoked a rebellion by female GOP lawmakers, forcing party leaders into an embarrassing retreat.The near party-line 242-184 vote marked a victory for anti-abortion lawmakers and organizations….House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the bill “the most pro-life legislation to ever come before this body,” adding, “We should all be proud to take this stand today.”
Well, that’s one way to look at it.
The final roll call on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” is online here. Note that aside from four Democrats who voted for it, and four Republicans who voted against it, the chamber was divided along party lines.
As we talked about the other day, this is largely the same bill House GOP leaders wanted to pass in January, but failed when Republicans couldn’t agree among themselves about how rape victims should be treated.
For fierce opponents of reproductive rights, yesterday may have been a little symbolic victory, but it’s worth appreciating exactly what the GOP-led House approved yesterday.
As a matter of policy, because roughly 99% of abortions occur before the 21st week of a pregnancy, these later terminations often involve “rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman’s health.” It’s why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is so strongly against proposals like the one House Republicans endorsed yesterday.
For that matter, this version of a 20-week ban includes what is effectively a waiting period for rape victims – Congress wants to extend the time women have to consider whether they want to bear their rapist’s child – and instructs medical professionals on how they’re supposed to perform abortions.
The fact that the bill has no chance of becoming law is reassuring to proponents of reproductive rights, but it doesn’t make House lawmakers look any better – they passed an abortion ban just to pass an abortion ban, investing time and energy in legislation they already know is doomed.
Senate Republicans are expected to take up the House bill in the coming months, but its prospects are poor. If, somehow, it were to clear the upper chamber, a veto from President Obama is guaranteed. The White House yesterday called the House bill “disgraceful.”