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Will the New U.S. Congress Protect Life Once Harry Reid’s “Roach Motel” Goes Out of Business?

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Steven W. Mosher - published on 11/07/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Prospects for pro-life legislation brighten, but the president still stands in the way.

For the last four years, the U.S. Senate has been the place where pro-life legislation went to die. Of more than a dozen pieces of pro-life legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives during the last two Congresses, not a single one was taken up by the Senate. Violating the Senate’s century-long tradition of deliberation and debate, outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), simply refused to bring them to the floor for a vote. Former Governor Mike Huckabee described Reid’s obstruction in these colorful words: "Harry Reid has created the roach motel of legislation. The bills come in, but they never come out."

Among the pro-life bills that the pro-abortion Reid killed in this way were:

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act: which would ban nearly all abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy – the point at which it is generally acknowledged that the unborn child can feel pain – and would save at least 18,000 lives a year. It would be an important step towards banning all abortions.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act: would prohibit the federal government, in the words of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, from “us[ing] its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and … forc[ing] taxpayers to subsidize this violence.” The bill would also force Obamacare plans that include a secret elective abortion surcharge to reveal this to consumers.

The Health Care Conscience Rights Act: would protect the First Amendment religious liberty rights of Americans by exempting them from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate. It also offers conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply held, reasoned beliefs.

The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act: would ban abortions for reasons of sex- and race-selection. This bill would save the lives of several thousand baby girls, who are currently being aborted for no other reason than that they are girls.

The Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations Bill:  The House version would cut funding given to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is a strong supporter of China’s coercive population control program; would reinstitute the Mexico City Policy, which denies federal funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning, and would cut funding for population control programs down to $461 million.

These and other sensible pieces of pro-life legislation that died in the Senate were merely a small part of a much larger batch of House-passed bills – over three hundred (300!) in all – that met the same fate. Many of these bills passed the House with bipartisan support and would have, presumably, easily won passage in the Senate. Yet the Democrat Majority Leader, in a political ploy that violated the longstanding traditions of that body, simply bottled them up, never permitting a debate, deliberation or vote.

He was, apparently, trying to protect vulnerable members of his Democrat Party who were up for re-election in conservative states from being forced to vote on bills and amendments when their votes would infuriate their constituents. For example, pro-choice Dems could not be caught voting against the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act without facing a question like this: “Explain to the good people of Arkansas again, Senator Pryor, why you think that Americans should continue to allow little girls to be killed by abortion simply because their parents wanted a boy?”

Despite Senator Reid’s underhanded efforts, all of the vulnerable Democrat senators 
– every last one of them – are now gone:

In Arkansas, pro-life Rep. (and now Senator-elect) Tom Cotton (R) clobbered his pro-abortion opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor (D), winning by almost 20 percentage points.

In North Carolina, pro-life Republican Thom Tillis, with strong support from North Carolina Right to Life and other pro-life groups, narrowly beat pro-abortion the incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D), despite having been outspent two-to-one.

In Colorado, Rep. (and now Senator-elect) Cory Gardner (R) was hammered on the abortion issue by his opponent, pro-abortion Sen. Mark Udall (D), but gradually pulled ahead in the polls and won the race easily. Gardner was a supporter of Colorado’s Personhood Amendment.

In Alaska the ballot counting continues, but pro-life Republican Dan Sullivan has led every poll for weeks and is expected to knock off pro-abortion Sen. Mark Begich (D).

Louisiana will hold a special run-off election on December 6, in which pro-life Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) is widely expected to trounce pro-abortion Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Thursday night that the DNC was cancelling ad buys to support Landrieu in the run-off election. After having lost control of the Senate, the Dems must have felt she was no longer worth the money, despite having loyally served her party for 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

Pro-life candidates swept the open seats as well, and held their own elsewhere.

In Georgia, pro-life Republican David Perdue cruised to a surprisingly easy victory over pro-abortion Democrat Michelle Nunn.

In Kentucky, pro-life Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell kept his seat after battling pro-abortion Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).

In Kansas, pro-life Sen. Pat Roberts (R) took out pro-abortion independent Greg Orman, winning by 15 percentage points a race that many thought Orman had in the bag. 

In West Virginia, Rep. (and now Senator-elect) Shelley Moore Capito (R) buried her pro-abortion opponent, Natalie Tennant, who was supported by Emily’s List. Rep. Capito has a mixed pro-life record (NARAL rated her 30% pro-abortion; National Right to Life rated her 55% pro-life).

In South Dakota, pro-life Republican former governor Mike Rounds (R) hammered pro-abortion Rick Weiland by over 20 points. 

In Iowa, pro-life state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) mocked the phony "war on women" tactics used by pro-abortion Rep. Bruce Braley (D), and won easily the Senate seat.

Now that the American people have, in effect, fired the obstructionist Senator Reid, and elected a Republican majority, what will happen to all of the pending pro-life legislation in the new Congress? I think the prospects are very, very good that it will all be passed.

Remember here that each and every one of the new Republican senators is strongly pro-life, members of the only political party in America that declares in its party platform that it opposes abortion. This means that come January, pro-lifers will once again have control of both houses of Congress.

Nor should the pro-life commitment of the new Senate Majority Leader be in doubt. Among other things, Senator McConnell has specifically promised to bring the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the floor of the Senate for a vote. In fact, I fully expect that all of the pro-life bills mentioned above will be voted on – and passed – by the U.S. Senate. (Indeed, there is considerable sentiment in the Senate to return to the traditions of the Senate, debating and voting on each and every one of the more than three hundred bills passed by the House.)

Facing this tsunami of pro-life legislation, the president will probably be tempted to stand against the tide and shout, “Stop!” And, by wielding his veto, he can certainly slow down America’s return to sanity when it comes to ensuring that the right to life of all Americans is protected.

By working together, however, pro-lifers in the House and Senate can still win. They can incorporate these common-sense, pro-life protections into other legislation that President Obama wants to see passed. In this way, Obama would virtually be forced to sign such bills into law or risk losing funding for other programs that he values. Or they can repeatedly send the same legislation to the president, educating Americans in the importance of protecting the unborn in the process, building popular pressure for a change.

None of this will be easy. It will require determination on the part of Congressional leaders, and persistence on the part of pro-life members to advance the cause of family, life, and faith. Abortion can be set on the road to gradual extinction.

After all, having lost control of both houses of Congress, and with his popularity plummeting, the occupant of the White House is now the lamest of lame ducks.

Steven W. Mosher
is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of "Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits."

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