Repubs Bow Out with Meaningless Politics as Usual
I read this in my Philadelphia Inquirer this morning but had read it earlier on Sexuality and Religion. Turns out the article being referenced was originally from yesterday's Washington Post. Here is the article, in its entirety:
House to Consider Abortion Anesthesia BillAs Rev. Haffner rightly points out, scientists do no know at what point fetuses are capable of perceiving pain but evidence suggests it's not until the third trimester.
Conservatives Vow More Tests for Democrats on Social Issues When Congress Returns
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 5, 2006; Page A05
In a parting gesture by social conservatives before Republicans relinquish control, House leaders plan to bring up a bill tomorrow that would declare that fetuses feel pain and require abortion providers to offer pregnant patients anesthesia for their unborn child.
The scheduled vote may be the last on abortion-related legislation for years. That's because Democratic leaders hope to avoid confrontations over hot-button social issues that divide their caucus, and focus instead on military and pocketbook issues.
But Republicans and antiabortion activists signaled yesterday that they intend to press hard on social issues, even those that failed to gain traction during GOP control, to separate moderate-to-conservative Democrats from their more liberal leaders.
"The Democrats are facing an interesting situation because they ran to the right in this election," said Wendy Wright, president of the conservative group Concerned Women for America. "They promised one thing to America with their campaigning. The question is, will they live up to that image? Running and hiding is not a solution."
Democrats are shying from the fight. Party leaders in the House have declared tomorrow's decision "a vote of conscience" and will not try to sway the outcome. House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does not plan to speak on the bill, a rarity for her.
The fetal pain bill is coming up nearly as an afterthought, in the final week of a lame-duck session of Congress. House Republican leaders are using expedited procedures to bring it to a vote, meaning it will take a two-thirds vote of the chamber to pass. Its supporters are setting expectations low.
"Hopefully, we get a majority," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), the bill's author. "Two-thirds is hard on anything, except if it's a post office."
Even if the bill can muster a two-thirds vote, it cannot pass the Senate before Congress adjourns.
But social conservatives see an opportunity to test Democrats' evolving position on abortion, a position that has become more amenable to incremental curbs on ending pregnancies and more vocal about reducing the number of abortions. Under Republican control, Congress passed a ban on the late-term abortion method called "partial birth" abortion by its foes and passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which increased penalties for crimes that harm a fetus.
At first blush, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act would seem to be anathema to abortion rights groups. It requires abortion providers to tell a woman whose pregnacy is 20 weeks past fertilization "there is substantial evidence" that the fetus will feel pain during the procedure -- a point hotly debated among physicians and pain specialists.
The woman would then have to sign a form accepting or declining anesthesia for her fetus. Some medical groups interpret the language to mean that the fetus would have to have an application of anesthesia separate from the mother's, a procedure that many abortion clinics are not capable of providing.
Even the bill's definition of pregnancy -- beginning at the moment of fertilization, rather than at implantation in the uterus -- is problematic to some abortion rights groups, since it would legislatively establish that some forms of birth control induce abortion by blocking implantation after fertilization.
Backers of the bill have framed it as a common-sense extension of existing state laws that mandate that patients receive information about abortion procedures before giving their consent.
"This is just a compassion piece of legislation to take informed consent to the level it should be at," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), an obstetrician and antiabortion conservative.
While the measure has provoked strong opposition from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, perhaps the nation's leading abortion rights group, has stayed neutral.
"Pro-choice Americans have always believed that women deserve access to all the information relevant to their reproductive health decisions. For some women, that includes information related to fetal anesthesia options," Nancy Keenan, NARAL's president, has said in a statement on the bill.
Democratic leaders cited NARAL's position when they decided against trying to influence the vote. Democratic leadership aides said yesterday that they are leery of Republicans charging that they are already out of touch with mainstream values, even before they assume power.
Citing those divisions, the National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson dared Democrats to vote against the bill. If it passes the House, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) will try to pass it in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote.
"Somebody will object," Johnson said. "We want to know who that person is."
The problem? Well according to a review article by the American Medical Association, "Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester," and there is "little or no evidence" of the effectiveness of fetal anesthesia and "limited or no data" on the safety of administering it. Why am I still surprised that Republicans in Congress will continue to press bills about highly devisive social wedge issues simply because they can? Why does it still shock me that these ideologues push for what has clearly been voiced by the American public as a failed agenda in order to score points with a redically far right base? And it's absolutely pointless. Even if Congress were not passing into Democratic leadership next month, this bill stands far less than a snowball's chance in hell of passage. It's being proposed purely to make a point.
Have we not made it clear that we've had enough of this? Apparently not in the mind of christopher Smith of NJ, sponsor of the bill.
2007 can't come too soon for me!
tags: US poilitics / religious right / US Congress