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A Closer Look: Watching the Abortion Pain Debate from the Balcony overlooking the House of Representatives

by | Aug 2, 2012

By Karen Cross, National Right to Life Political Director

Left to right: Elizabeth Spillman, NRL Political Assistant, Andrew Bair, who works for NRL’s State Development Department, and Karen Cross, NRLC Political Director. All went to the Hill to watch the debate over H.R. 3803, the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, began as any other day.  As political director for National Right to Life, I spend most of my time researching 435 House races, 33 Senate races and the presidential race, trying to determine in which races we at National Right to Life can make a difference for the babies.

This day was different.  This was the day that H.R. 3803, the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was going to be debated in our nation’s capitol.  This was National Right to Life’s top legislative priority this year and we spent countless hours getting to this point.

After prodding from Elizabeth Spillman, NRL Political Assistant, I decided join her and Andrew Bair, one of NRL’s State Development employees, to go on the Hill and watch the debate.

My heart swelled with pride and gratitude as I watched our pro-life heroes step up to the plate to defend innocent babies.

I listened as Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the bill, opened the debate.  I was greatly encouraged as four articulate pro-life women spoke in favor of the bill:  Congresswomen Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), and Martha Roby (R-Ala.).

Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) speaking from his perspective as a doctor, said, “This bill is founded on very basic scientific principles that the fetus has pain receptors throughout their body at twenty weeks…”

Congressmen Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who became a grandfather for the first time last week, added, “seeing that defenseless little child for the first time reminded me just how precious life is and why we’re morally obligated to protect it.”

Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Ks.) rose in support of the legislation saying, “It is cruel, inhumane and contradictory to this nation’s leadership as the defender and protector of individual liberties to inflict pain knowingly on anyone, let alone a defenseless unborn child…”

Congressmen Steve King (R-Iowa) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) used a visual display illustrating the gruesome D & E abortion method most often used at 20 weeks. Congressman King asked, “Who of us could watch such a procedure?  Who of us could conduct such a procedure?”

Congressman Smith reminded us, “That unborn babies are forced to endure excruciating pain in the performance of later term abortions—and perhaps even earlier—should shock us. Children not only die from abortion—they suffer. This is a wakeup call to all Americans: unborn children feel pain.”

It was fascinating to watch the fruit of National Right to Life’s efforts:  pro-life congressmen and congress women who are speaking up for the defenseless little ones – those you worked hard to elect – in action.  It gave me renewed determination to work hard, to make solid decisions in order to have the best outcome for the 113thCongress.

As I reflect on that evening, I find it unbelievable that 154 lawmakers voted to defend the current D.C. policy of legal abortion for any reason until birth.  Unbelievable.

It is also unbelievable that they try to couch their extreme pro-abortion beliefs in the mantra of a “War on Women.”  In her floor speech, pro-life Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Ala.), responded beautifully: “I am a woman and I have not declared war on myself!”

I have heard from people who are understandably disappointed we did not garner the necessary 2/3rds votes necessary to win under the fast track procedure used Tuesday.  But I am thankful for the public debate: more know the truth, therefore more lives may be saved.

Imagine a scared pregnant girl hearing the discussion about unborn babies and pain?  As she reflects on that truth, she may choose life.

As for the 154 lawmakers who voted against the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, I think NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson put it best:

“Tuesday’s groundbreaking majority vote constitutes a giant step towards this bill ultimately becoming law — perhaps after the replacement of some of the lawmakers who today were unwilling to protect pain-capable unborn children in the sixth month of pregnancy and later. 154 House members will have to explain to their constituents why they voted to endorse a policy of legal abortion for any reason, until the moment of birth, in their nation’s capital.”

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Categories: Legislation