Contact: Gualberto Garcia Jones, VP/ National Policy Director, Personhood Alliance, (202) 888-6333
On October 3, 2017, the House passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36) with several serious flaws. Two of these flaws, say multiple right-to-life leaders, are detrimental to the common goal shared among the diverse factions of the pro-life movement—to protect and defend all human life, from conception to natural death.
“As a person concerned with defending human rights,” explains Daniel Becker, president of Personhood Alliance, “I want to let my fellow pro-lifers know that it’s okay to oppose laws Republicans put forth and national organizations support, when those laws go against our shared goal as a movement. You’re NOT ‘not pro-life’ for speaking up. In fact, by opposing this flawed legislation, you’re upholding the values that we all fight for every day.”
The first flaw, notes Christopher Kurka, executive director of Alaska Right to Life, is the lack of standard language that prevents activist judges from using the law to create a right to abortion. “A simple clause,” says Kurka, “stating that ‘no right to abortion shall be established in this law’ is completely missing. Combine that with language that specifically carves out exceptions to the 20-week rule and explicitly permits all abortions before 20 weeks, denying those younger babies personhood, and we’ve just set ourselves up for SCOTUS to keep Roe intact indefinitely.”
Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life and board member of Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, agrees: “Whenever you have a piece of legislation that says ‘if you do this and this and this, then you can go ahead and abort the child’ it must be recognized for what it is—a bill that further enshrines abortion into law.”
Gualberto Garcia Jones, national policy director for Personhood Alliance, explains further. “Forget about how the Supreme Court would analyze this bill, because it will never get past the Senate. Then the pro-life movement will be left with another failed show bill, and a poor one at that. We’ve already set a dangerously low bar for House GOP members by allowing them to proclaim how pro-life they are, all the while knowing this bill’s fate. Now, we do a disservice to our pro-life base by pretending that the Senate, who couldn’t even reallocate taxpayer funds away from Planned Parenthood, is going to end abortion after 20 weeks. Instead,” says Jones, “We should focus on a real, winning strategy, which is to hold our legislators to a higher standard and replace those that fail to meet it. But sadly, much of the pro-life movement has, once again, lowered its standards in order to have a seat at the table with legislators that are pro-life in name only.”
Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Patrick Johnston, president of the Association of Pro-Life Physicians explains the second flaw: Exceptions for children conceived in rape and incest. “To permit the killing of some children is to abandon our moral high ground and God’s blessing. Our congressmen and women must protect all those they are duty- and constitutionally-bound to protect.” Rebecca Kiessling, president of Save the 1 and conceived in rape herself, adds: “My people group feels the pain of discrimination every time so-called pro-life laws exclude us from protection. What’s more, women who experience the horrific violation of rape deserve better than a law that promotes a second act of violence as a solution.”
Similarly, permitting abortion for children conceived in incest is particularly harmful, as abortion is often used to hide evidence of the crime and give the perpetrator continued access to the victim. “Several studies have shown that abortion is rarely voluntary for incest victims,” says Kiessling. “Like the assault itself, abortion is often forced or coerced, which contributes to the victimization. When abortion providers look the other way, and when we explicitly permit this in our laws, we aid and abet this injustice.”
Ricardo Davis, African-American pro-life activist and president of Georgia Right to Life, reflects: “A strength of the early Civil Rights movement was its commitment to apply a biblical view of personhood to the plight of Black citizens dehumanized by slavery and faced with daily threats to their lives. Today, we cannot say that HR36 is just when it dehumanizes the majority of preborn children killed by abortion.”
“With Republicans in control of the House, Senate, and Oval Office, pro-lifers need to ask themselves some serious questions right now,” says Matt Sande, legislative director at Pro-Life Wisconsin. “Why aren’t we using this opportunity to put forth legislation that upholds our shared goal? And why are we allowing this current legislation to give cover to our politicians who continue to receive ‘100% pro-life’ ratings while directly undermining our efforts?”
These are questions that leaders across the country are rising up to ask right now. Pro-lifers are encouraged to join them by calling upon their Republican representatives and national pro-life organizations to work toward ending legalized abortion without compromising the foundational principles on which the pro-life movement stands.