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Blowing Up the Base: An Abortion Strategy Revealed

The new Republican Congress already looks like a bunch of incompetent boobs.

The legislatively meaningless vote for the perennial “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), which would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, was scheduled for a vote today, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  (I say “meaningless” because President Abortion vowed to veto it.)

Last week, I wrote that the bill was morally flawed, despicably so, because, after arguing strenuously that unborn children feel pain after the 20th week of pregnancy, and that they therefore should not be stabbed, rent, or chemically burned to death (because they would feel this), the bill goes on to exempt the offspring of rape and incest from protection against being stabbed, rent, or chemically burned to death (despite the fact that they too would feel this).

With the aforementioned veto assured, the purpose of this legislation was thus political, which isn’t necessarily, and of itself, a bad thing.  Unless you kill the bill at the 11th hour for all the wrong reasons.

Which is exactly what happened.  Last night, a week’s worth of back-alley debate led the GOP House leadership to the uncomfortable conclusion that they did not have enough votes, or at least the right votes, to pass the bill.  And this is thanks in large part to the efforts of pro-life-campaigning Rep. Renee Ellmers (NC), who whipped enough GOP women away from the already lame-duck legislation.  Reportedly, this began at the GOP retreat last Thursday, a closed-door brainstorming session aimed at strategerizing for the votes of young Americans.  To that end, they listened to demographer and Lifecourse Associate Neil Howe, "the man credited with coining the term ‘millennial.’” It was then that armchair sociologist Ellmers began to speculate about the dangers of voting on the Pain-Capable bill, for fear of alienating the millennial vote.

The fear, it seems, is two-pronged.  On one hand Ellmers has suggested that millennials will balk at the bill’s exceptions for rape and incest because, as currently written, the exceptions require victims to document their rape or incest with law enforcement.  (This did not seem to bother her greatly the last time she voted in favor of identical legislation, but when asked about that this morning, she replied that it didn't matter, because the law-enforcement requirement "wasn't evident in the base language of the [previous] bill.")

On the other, she expressed concerns that raising the issue at all is an untimely political maneuver for the nascent Congress: "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].”

Enough Republicans agreed with this logic to blow up the bill.  Except—wait, the interwebs exist, and people, including the pro-lifers who put Ellmers and many of her colleagues in office, found out about her Machiavellian manipulations!  So Ellmers told reporters that, while she’d withdrawn her name from sponsoring the legislation, she would vote, or would have voted, for it anyway.  She posted on Facebook that she is pro-life.  And she welcomed pro-life demonstrators at the March for Life via Twitter.  “It’s unfortunate the way it played out,” Ellmers said.

Besides Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), it is unclear who joined Ellmers as part of the group of potential no-votes that grabbed Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy by the gonads and told him how high to jump.  But in the jumping, as reported by the Washington Post, the craven cowardice of a GOP that cannot get its act together even on meaningless “message-legislation” was confirmed:

The opposition set off a scramble Wednesday among top GOP leaders concerned about how several "no" votes could be perceived by their party and the general public.

With word of the opposition spreading, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) conferred nervously off the House floor after a midday vote. From there, Scalise headed to a meeting in his office suite with Ellmers, Walorski, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)—a lead co-sponsor of the bill—and several other women.

What a winsome message to send to “millennials”: We wanted to stand up for babies who can feel pain, except for those babies who can feel pain but have criminal fathers, yet we can’t go through with it because we think you won’t like us if we say so officially, even though we’ve already said we’re going to say it, and we’re afraid of how you might perceive the media coverage that could result if a man sponsors an antiabortion bill and women conspicuously withdraw their support, even though the press has already denounced us for that as well.

In short: Young people, we are craven, and you are dumb.  Please vote for us.

In addition to the ill will she has undoubtedly earned from the GOP leadership who chose to follow her lead, Ellmers has not scored points with her pro-life supporters.  According to LifeNews.com,

North Carolina Right to Life president Barbara Holt is upset at the actions of Ellmers—someone she had normally considered a faithful pro-life member of Congress.

“At the same time that Ms. Ellmers was stating on her Facebook page and in the news media that she would vote for the bill on Jan. 22, she worked behind the scenes to make sure she would not have to vote on the bill,” she told LifeNews.com.

As a countermeasure sure to please millennials who don’t care about such issues, Ellmers joined pro-life Republicans on the House floor this morning, speaking in favor of the newly minted HR 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a move GOP House leaders cooked up last night after preemptively quashing their inevitably quashed bill.  HR 7 prohibits any federal subsidies for the purchase of healthcare plans that include provision for abortion under the Affordable Care Act.

Today, the bill passed the House, just as it did one month ago when the Senate subsequently ignored it.  President Obama mimeographed his previous vow to veto it and sent it to House Democrats before the voting even started.

Thus, with thousands of their base voters standing on the Washington Mall, the House GOP sat down on an IED and blew their own brains out.

The question is, will those voters remember, come the next election?

Aaron D. Wolf

Aaron D. Wolf

Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor.  His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).

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