Analysis

A look at Renee Ellmers’ new ideas to make the 20-week abortion ban completely useless

ellmers

It appears that not only has Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) not learned anything from her battle with pro-lifers over the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, if anything she’s decided the bill’s rape and incest exceptions need to be even weaker. The National Journal has the scoop (hat tip to Breitbart) on a draft Ellmers is finally happy with:

Ellmers said that instead of a requirement that rape victims report the crime to law enforcement, the version she saw would mandate that the woman must inform the doctor performing the abortion that she was raped in order to be eligible for a late-term abortion.

“The demand that it be reported to law enforcement was completely unrealistic and only further victimized the victims of rape, and I think that’s something that we have to be very conscientious about,” Ellmers said.

So her idea for ensuring that only rape victims get late-term abortions is to take the abortionists’ word for it? Really? Her initial complaint that reporting the rape to law enforcement (which, remember, was allowed at any time in the five month window between the rape and the 20-week cutoff) was naïve at best; this is an outright parody.

Ellmers added that the new language clarifies exceptions in the case of incest as well. Previously, the bill allowed only minors who were victims of incest to be eligible for late-term abortions. Now, the bill would open up the procedure to any women who become pregnant as a result of incest, no matter the age, she said.

“Incest is incest. There can’t really be a cutoff age,” Ellmers said. “That was, I thought, not well thought out.”

This does highlight some weak thinking, but not the example she specifies. It’s always been odd how incest’s placement between rape and life of the mother in the usual exceptions mantra is just accepted as a given, when in reality it has the least substantive reason to be there of all.

It’s pointless as a check against sexual abuse by an older relative, since forcible sex and sex with minors are already covered by the rape exception. And as for incest between consenting adult kin, the only fundamental difference between it and unrelated adult partners that pertains to pregnancy is the potential for genetic disorders—which pro-lifers usually don’t concede as part of the usual hard-case compromises. (As I would hope is needless to say, incest is still very wrong for an array of other reasons; they just have nothing to do with abortion.)

The impression that lingers from Ellmers’ reasoning is that this isn’t merely about compromising to make the bill palatable to the largest possible number of people, but about the availability of abortion in these scenarios being genuinely important to her—the lack of which is apparently more worrisome to her than the brutal killing of 5-month-old babies. Public service isn’t about holding the whole process hostage to your personal preferences as to how exactly every detail should fall into place, but about choosing whether to act or do nothing when given an opportunity to stop evil…and you, congresswoman, chose to do nothing.

The good news is that she doesn’t seem to be swaying anyone new to her cause—Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the top sponsor of the pain-capable bill, says these new provisions aren’t in any of the language he’s seen, while at least one of her fellow Congressmen, John Fleming (R-LA) is directly calling out the absurdity of her demands: “You leave a huge loophole. All you got to do is say, ‘I’ve been raped,’ and no questions are asked” to get a late-term abortion.

That’s what was missing last time around. While plenty of commentators tore apart the dubious logic and warped priorities of her betrayal, Ellmers didn’t have to face direct cross-examination from her peers. Not once was she challenged to explain how she expected to keep the rape exception from turning into a total loophole, or why she felt it not meeting her standards suddenly meant it wasn’t worth voting to ban any late-term abortions.

Well, that may be about to change, too. Economist and commentator Frank Roche has announced he’ll again challenge Ellmers for her seat in the primary , and if his opening statements are anything to go by—“Renee Ellmers has betrayed the conservatives of the Second District,” “no longer represents the people,” and “has surrendered to the Washington establishment”—he plans to ask her some tough questions.

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