Republican Leaders Deserve Credit for Abortion Ban Strategy

Opinion   |   Michael New, Ph.D.   |   Aug 2, 2012   |   11:02AM   |   Washington, DC

As my colleague Chuck Donovan mentioned, the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act received strong support in the U.S House of Representatives. Seventeen Democrats supported 203 Republicans in voting in favor of the bill. However, even though the bill received majority support, it failed to garner the two-thirds vote necessary to pass under suspension of the rules.

Back in May, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) which would ban sex-selective abortions was voted on by the House under the same set of circumstances. It too received majority support, but also fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Some pro-lifers are wondering why House leadership has suspended the rules for both of these bills — requiring a higher two-thirds threshold for passage. The reasons are twofold. First, the Democrat controlled Senate would be extremely unlikely to vote on either of these pieces of legislation. So even if these bills were to pass the House, they would be all but certain to die in the Senate.

Second, and more important, suspending the rules allows the legislation to be voted on without amendments. During the debate over the federal partial-birth-abortion ban in the mid-1990s, many Democrats were able to take political cover by voting for a sham partial-birth-abortion ban — rendered meaningless by an amendment mandating an extremely broad health exception. Republican leadership wanted to make sure that this did not happen with either the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act or PRENDA.

Scheduling floor votes on both bills was a shrewd decision by Republican House leadership because it put many Democrats on record as opposing pieces of pro-life legislation that enjoy broad public support. In fact, before the end of the congressional session, the House leadership should consider a vote on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA).



CIANA would make it illegal for a non-parent to circumvent a state parental-notice law by taking a minor across state lines to have an abortion. CIANA was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee by a 20–13 margin in March. Versions of CIANA were approved by a majority of both the U.S House and U.S. Senate in 2006. Furthermore, five Gallup surveys taken since 1992 consistently show that around 70 percent of Americans favor parental-involvement laws. A House Vote on CIANA would be both good politics and good policy. Note: Dr. Michael New is a political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.