Why Did Georgia Right to Life Oppose HR 1797?

Over the past 24 hours, there has been a lot of discussion and confusion over the Federal Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 1797), what it does, what it doesn’t do, and why Georgia Right to Life opposed the legislation. Monday night (June 17), GRTL urged legislators and supporters to call for HR 1797 to be amended or opposed due to language added on Friday that would prejudicially condemn a certain class of persons, despite their ability to feel pain. If the exception, which was an unnecessary measure that was added out of fear, were removed, then it would have been supported by GRTL.

The best way to understand this issue is to try to keep all of this in perspective:

  1. This legislation had no chance of passing the Senate, and certainly had no chance of getting signed by President Obama. So we're not talking about actually gaining or losing any legislative ground over it. The legislation was designed and intended by National Right to Life and US House leadership to be about taking a stand and making a show to the voters what the legislature is willing to do. Think of it as an encouragement from pro-life legislators to voters that if we give them the Senate in 2014, then they will pass pro-life laws just like this one.
  2. This legislation didn't originally have rape/incest exception in it. It was being promoted up until Friday as only carrying absolute medical health of the mother exception. Georgia Right to Life endorsed the bill up until that point. House leadership even took this bill away from Rep. Franks and gave it to Rep. Marsha Blackburn when they added this new exception so that they could better peddle the bill with a friendly female face. GRTL didn’t approach the situation demanding all or nothing. If the exception were removed, it would have been endorsed and supported. But, because they added the exception, GRTL opposed the bill in its currently written form.
  3. A recent national poll (which had a 47% pro-abortion sampling) found that 64% of voters support a 20 week abortion ban with only an absolutely life of the mother exception. So, why add rape and incest exception to the current Fetal Pain bill? It's not political expedience if pro-life conservatives control the only Chamber that it has a chance of passing anyhow and if we have a majority of the public opinion.
  4. We had a unique opportunity to present to the voting public a symbol from pro-life legislators of their conviction and dedication to ending abortion. We could have showed that the American people and the US legislature is willing to ban abortions to prevent Gosnell from happening again. Nobody *wants* abortions. Nobody *wants* the rape exception. We're holding our noses because it's a "step in the right direction." But the bill in its current form said the US Congress is only willing to do just that - take steps.


So, we cannot get lost in the rhetoric of “lives being saved.” This bill was never going to save any lives in the first place. It was only a show, to educate the public, to hold the line before the culture, to show our hand to the voters, and to beckon a response at the ballot box. As long as it made everyone feel good about it, many people were willing to ignore the elephant in the room - if the bill is based on when babies feel pain, then why make exceptions for any people who feel pain? The Republican Party can do better than this. But, we're so scared of not making progress that we keep taking what they feed us. McCain, Romney, HR 1797 Amended, etc. Where do we draw the line?

We have been immensely successful with this very same strategy here in Georgia. Today, all of Georgia's constitutional officers who ran during the 2010 election year are endorsed by GRTL and pro-life only a life of the mother exception. We endorse politicians and legislation on the same criteria we used to determine our support of HR 1797. In fact, our own Georgia Fetal Pain bill suffered a similar fate in 2011. We endorsed the bill all the way until it was hijacked in the eleventh hour with eugenic language, and then we removed our support from the legislation. To do any differently on a national scale when so much is at stake in our culture would have been irresponsibly inconsistent.

Georgia Right to Life will continue to gladly uphold the standards and ideals of the most effective and protective pro-life legislation and legislators in our state and our national delegation. In doing so, we will build a stronger state, stronger legislatures, a stronger movement, and ultimately save more lives.