GOP Once Again Proves to Be Own Worst Enemy by Caving on Abortion Bill

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

It’s tough to overstate just how stupid the Republican Party is for choking itself with the abortion bill it just yanked off the House floor.

Planned Parenthood’s response to the easy win House Republicans just handed them: “What happened?  The 20-week ban is so extreme, even some of the most extreme anti-women’s-health politicians object.”  If only the Republican Party was willing to do a favor this huge for its actual supporters.

As David Harsanyi notes at The Federalistthis bill was anything but “extreme”; Planned Parenthood is the extremist organization here.  You can’t find a single poll that didn’t show huge popular support for the 20-week abortion limit.  It’s more popular than anything President Obama prattled about during his Santa Claus list of taxpayer-financed giveaways at the State of the Union address:

Here’s a short list of things that are less popular than banning late-term abortions: “Acting” on climate change. “Free” community college. Taxing the wealthy. Building the Keystone pipeline. President Barack Obama. Future president Hillary Clinton. Every Republican who’s thinking about running for the presidency.

A new Marist finds 84 percent of Americans are in favor of some level of further restrictions on abortion. And regardless of their feelings about the legality of the procedure, 60 percent believe it to be “morally wrong.” If you aren’t keen on that poll – it was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, after all – you can take your pick of others.

A Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of women support limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A CBS News poll found that 60 percent of Americans thought abortion “should not be permitted” or available only under “stricter limits.” A CNN Poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe abortion should legal only in a “few circumstances” or “always illegal.”

Yet the GOP caves on a bill that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks and promises instead to pass another worthless ban on taxpayer funded abortions – which we all know can be ignored by hiring an accountant.

In other words, they threw out a substantial measure that would have made a real difference and swapped in an entirely symbolic bill that would only slightly inconvenience the abortion industry if it passed, given that it merely makes permanent a theoretically temporary restriction they already know how to evade.  There will still be a fight over it, but the stakes will be so low that it essentially doesn’t matter if the abortion industry is defeated — they have everything to gain by making a fuss and nothing to lose.

Meanwhile, the Republicans actually hurt themselves by throwing away the 20-week bill — enraging their core constituents, setting up those constituents for ridicule, and making themselves look incompetent.  They’re helping a small band of abortion-happy profiteering extremists make themselves look like a legitimate voice of majority opinion.  They’re actively assisting Obama in building a case that the 2014 midterm elections didn’t matter.  (If voters had known this betrayal was coming last November, that Republican wave would have been a lot smaller, if it had rolled ashore at all.)

And they did it all on the eve of the Roe v. Wade anniversary and the March for Life, which some of these very same Republicans are planning to attend!  They might as well roll into the march early and tell everyone to go home, because they clearly no longer have representation in Congress.  At a moment of unique Republican strength, in the wake of the Gosnell horror, the GOP wouldn’t even try to pass pro-life legislation with strong support from every demographic.  They bailed on a bill identical to the one that passed the House in 2013 but died in the Democrat Senate… unmistakably sending the signal that they were only interested in offering a purely symbolic sop to pro-lifers with doomed legislation.  What else does the pro-life movement need to hear from the Republican Party this week?  Maybe their speakers will get booed off the stage, and the Democratic Party can sit back and laugh, enjoying the wonderful entertainment its nominal political adversaries have prepared for it.

This debacle has nothing to do with standing on principle or representing voters.  It’s got the whiff of an internal power struggle won by GOP Establishment money.  Most of all, it’s about craven fear of the media.  As Fox News reports, the bill “fell victim to intra-party disputes over concerns that the law would alienate women voters,” which means faint-hearted Republicans lacked all confidence in their ability to fight the Democrats’ rusty “War on Women” media machine:

The failed bill, which reflected the idea that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, would have criminalized virtually all abortions for pregnancies of 20 weeks or longer. It would offer some exceptions, including for victims of rape that have already been reported to authorities.

But some Republicans, including female members of Congress, objected to that requirement, saying that many women feel too distressed to report rapes and should not be penalized. A 2013 Justice Department report calculated that just 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police.

“The issue becomes, we’re questioning the woman’s word,” Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said earlier Wednesday. “We have to be compassionate to women when they’re in a crisis situation.”

There were also objections to the bill’s exemption for minors who are victims of incest and have reported the incident.

“So the exception would apply to a 16-year-old but not a 19-year-old?” said Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa. “I mean, incest is incest.”

There was concern that the bill would have looked bad for the Republican Party as it struggles to court female voters in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, and primary and general election candidates could have turned the vote around on the Republicans. The GOP also wants to demonstrate that it can focus on issues that matter to voters and not get bogged down in gridlock.

As those poll numbers demonstrate, this issue does matter to voters.  It doesn’t matter to the media, or the Democrat-industrial complex in Washington, whose list of priorities is brimming with things American voters don’t care about.  For a little extra media-watching fun, make note of how rarely this bill is identified by its proper name, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.  Every bill is given a name designed to manipulate opinion, of course, but the media is more than happy to repeat those names when it’s legislation they support.

During her flipping and flopping over the bill, Rep. Renee Ellmers at one point said she was flipping against it because “the first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials… social issues just aren’t as important to them.”  How do you like those apples, pro-lifers?  She’s explicitly telling you that your concerns shouldn’t come up until the sixth vote or later.

She’s dead wrong about millennials, both in terms of how they view protection for pain-capable babies and more broadly about their interests in social issues.  How can anyone be blind enough to miss the revolution in young people’s support for one of the paramount social issues of the day, gay marriage, and claim they’re not interested in such issues?  Also, even if people claim to be disinterested in social debates, those social debates are most certainly interested in them.  Liberals have been using Big Government and Big Media to socially engineer the electorate for decades.  What Ellmers is really doing here is ceding the social battleground entirely to the left, without putting up a fight at all.  That’s the last thing America needs right now.

“Getting bogged down in gridlock” is code for “we’re so afraid and unwilling to fight for this that Democrats beat us without lifting a finger.”  You’re not going to hear any sobbing about “gridlock” when it’s time for Democrats to push their big agenda items, including culture-war initiatives.  When that day comes, “gridlock” will be re-defined as Republican resistance to whatever Democrats want to do.  Today it means Republicans trying to do something Democrats don’t like.  See how this works?  And you just made a hefty political donation to keep it working that way, Republicans.

As for the “War on Women” fallout, get ready for a wave of 2016 ads battering your party for even considering the bill you just scuttled.  Those ads will now be turbo-charged with lines about how the GOP tried to pass an “anti-women’s-health” bill so extreme that even Republican women turned against it.  Today the GOP alienated its own core voters, and gained nothing of value with any other constituency, including the media complex that terrifies them.  The Republican Party is still its own worst enemy.  It can’t even manage to surf ashore when it’s riding on a tsunami.


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