D.C. Lawmakers Protect Wildlife, Ignore Unborn Babies

Opinion   |   Luis Zaffirini   |   May 4, 2012   |   4:57PM   |   Washington, DC

Doesn’t human life, especially at its most vulnerable, deserve the same protection if not more than the life of a raccoon or a skunk? I would wager to say the average person would answer yes, but the Council of the District of Columbia, and the District’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, have a different response.
You see, in 2010 the District Council passed the D.C. Wildlife Protection Act, which regulated the capture, handling, and transport of certain animals by wildlife control service providers. The law sought “to ensure against causing unnecessary discomfort, behavioral stress, or physical harm” to wildlife being captured. The law specifically prohibited the use of “leghold and other body-gripping traps, body-crushing traps, snares” and other such devices by pest control personnel.
But methods deemed by the District Council as completely unacceptable for trapping and transporting wild animals are perfectly legal to take the lives of the unborn human babies of the District, even when there is scientific evidence that shows these babies can feel intense pain. To take their lives, abortionists use a method in which the baby’s arms and legs are twisted off with forceps. Abortion by this method, and others that would also inflict great pain, currently are legal right up to the moment of birth in the nation’s capital, and they are openly advertised well past the point that the capacity to experience pain has been demonstrated.
But now pro-life members of the U.S. Congress, which under the Constitution has exclusive legislative authority over the District, are trying to pass a much-needed law that would protect the District’s unborn human babies who are capable of feeling pain (after 20 weeks fetal age). The bill, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has been introduced by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.) in the House, where it has 183 cosponsors, and by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Senate, where it has 21 cosponsors.
In response, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) held a press conference protesting the measure to protect these unborn babies. There she lamented that D.C. residents were being “used as guinea pigs by members of the House and Senate to showcase their pet political issues, however cruel, dangerous or personal.” The irony did not go unnoticed by NRLC Federal Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, who pointed out that “[i]f a District police officer witnessed a man using forceps to twist the legs off of a guinea pig, the man would be arrested and charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000. (DC ST § 22-1001). Yet, this is exactly what is done to an unborn human baby in a D&E abortion. We think most Americans believe that unborn babies in the sixth month and later should enjoy at least as much protection from gross acts of violence as a guinea pig.”
I cannot help but re-read defenses for the D.C. Wildlife Protection Act through this lens.
D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation, introduced the wildlife protection legislation. Following a misunderstanding in the media regarding the inclusion of certain pest animals in the law, Councilwoman Cheh offered a public statement which read in part: “The primary purpose of the law is to require that wildlife…be treated as humanely as the circumstances allow. Maiming, crushing, or causing needless suffering of captured animals is barbaric, irrespective of the jurisdiction.”
The Humane Society defended the law, saying: “The practices covered in the Act, such as not poisoning birds and not using cruel steel-jawed traps to catch ‘nuisance’ animals, are in fact cutting edge in the field of urban wildlife damage management and consistent with what a majority of homeowners prefer…The Act provides for certain standards for a previously unregulated industry in the District, nuisance wildlife control.”
Thank God for Congressman Franks, Senator Lee, and the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, for giving a similar voice for the unrestricted practice of abortion in our nation’s capital. It is an incredible double standard for the District Council and Delegate Norton to insist upon humane treatment for wildlife and protest any such protection for unborn human beings.
If the members of Congress who represent you have not yet cosponsored this urgently needed legislation, you should ask them why — and urge them to do so. An always-current list of House cosponsors, arranged by state, is posted here, and an always-current list of Senate cosponsors is posted here.