The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist and other pro-life leaders have called on Republican congressional leaders to halt the delay on a proposed ban on late abortions.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), joined nine other heads of pro-life organizations April 22 to urge the leaders of the majority in the House of Representatives to schedule a vote immediately on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The legislation would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
The pro-life leaders released a joint statement exactly three months after the originally scheduled date for a vote on the bill, H.R. 36. GOP leaders canceled a Jan. 22 roll call on the proposal after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concern about the legislation. The House had approved the same measure in the previous congressional session, however.
House leaders have said they still intend to hold a vote on the bill.
In their statement, the pro-lifers said, “The babies and mothers being targeted by the late-term abortion industry have waited long enough for protection.”
The ban, they said, “is a simple, compassionate proposal supported by a large majority of Americans, including women and young people.”
“A vote on this popular, modest bill will serve as a benchmark as to whether the House GOP is serious about protecting unborn babies and women,” Moore and the others said.
The new Republican majority in the Senate is seeking to pass the bill, although the White House already has signaled its opposition to the measure. Obama administration officials have indicated they would recommend the president veto it.
In addition to Moore, other signers were Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List; Charmaine Yoest, president, Americans United for Life; Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council; Penny Young Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president, March for Life; Janet Morana, co-founder, Silent No More Awareness Campaign; Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life; Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life of America; and Brian Burch, president, CatholicVote.org.
The House leadership’s original scheduling of the vote was significant, because Jan. 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion nationwide throughout all stages of pregnancy. Tens of thousands of pro-lifers gather each year on that date for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
When the original roll call was canceled, pro-life leaders expressed their disappointment. Moore did not mince any words.
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” he said in an ERLC news release. “If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?
“The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
Pelosi is the former Democratic speaker of the House who supports abortion rights.
The small group of Republican House members who sought delay of the Jan. 22 vote focused their concerns on the proposal’s rape exemption, which requires the assault be reported to law enforcement authorities. One of their apprehensions was its perception by women and young adults.
Women and young people, however, both support the ban with the reporting requirement, according to a poll in November by Quinnipiac University of voters nationwide. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the legislation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)