Opinion

Renee Ellmers’s excuses for House abortion meltdown still not compelling

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Having earned the enmity of pro-lifers everywhere by torpedoing the House vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at the worst possible time, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) is now in damage-control mode, with an extended statement on her website maintaining that she still supports the bill’s purpose but was merely trying to give the details due diligence:

As any member of Congress should do when apprehensive with language in a bill, my colleagues and I took our concerns to leadership, and we held a discussion within the family of our Republican Conference. I remain disappointed that the concern for the language of mandatory reporting of rape to law enforcement held by House Republican women and many men were not addressed before our leadership made the decision to pull the bill from the House floor in the eleventh hour.

Yes, Congresswoman, the concerns should have been hammered out earlier…like, for instance, in 2013, when you knew the bill had the same language yet supported it anyway. Were there really no opportunities in the full year since then to settle this dispute?

Additionally, I am appalled by the abhorrent and childish behaviors from some of the leaders of the outside groups.

Those are pretty strong words for leaders Ellmers doesn’t name and misconduct she doesn’t specify. It’s “abhorrent” to insist that lawmakers keep their promises? It’s “childish” to criticize them when they don’t?

“Childish” is also an interesting claim, considering that, by fretting that the bill might alienate ignorant millennials, Ellmers herself was in effect arguing that childishness is something responsible members of Congress should pander to.

While we must continue to provide a voice for the voiceless, we must also show compassion to women when they are in the midst of a crisis, especially victims of rape —and it is my belief that the mandatory police reporting provision relating to rape within the bill would have hindered our ability to do that.

Nonsense. Ed Whelan explains that the reporting requirement is more than accommodating enough, since a pregnant rape victim still has the first full five months to obtain an abortion, and even if she didn’t, the requirement doesn’t place any limits on how soon after the rape she must report it. He also points out its obvious necessity:

The elimination of the reporting requirement would eviscerate the bar after 20 weeks. If it’s enough for a woman (or girl) seeking an abortion to tell the abortionist that she’s been raped, that’s quite an incentive to lie. Tell the abortionist you’ve been raped, and, with no further questions, you get the abortion you’re seeking. Don’t make the claim, and you don’t. (No, I’m not at all contending that women tend to lie about rape; I’m relying on the elementary reality that anyone will be tempted to lie about anything if the perceived reward for lying is very attractive.)

So, Congresswoman Ellmers, if you find expecting an abortion-seeker to report her rape too burdensome, then how do you propose we ensure that the rape exception can’t be exploited by anyone else who wants an abortion for any other reason?

Besides, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser points out that Ellmers has previously “said the only exception she would support is to save the life of the mother,” so one wonders why an overly strict rape exception would be a deal-breaker for her in the first place.

It’s unimaginable to me why some outside parties would seek to target strong, pro-life conservative women and men who are serving in Congress.

Feigning ignorance at what all the fuss is about: not exactly the hallmark of a politician who knows she’s in the right. “Strong, pro-life conservative women and men” should understand the importance of putting on a united front during the year’s single most important pro-life demonstration, the day when abortion gets the most press coverage of the year. They should not be so easily bamboozled by loopholes big enough to drive a truck through, or so easily intimidated by the “extremism” of a bill that would leave over 98% of abortions completely untouched. For “strong, pro-life conservative women and men,” dispatching such talking points from the real extremists should be a cakewalk.

That may be the most maddening thing about this whole sorry affair: are we really going to gloss over the fact that a certain type of rape exception being too “extreme” signifies a major goalpost shift? Killing babies conceived in rape is just as wrong as any other abortion; perceived political necessity is the only reason we tolerate it in bills to begin with. If pro-life compromises are to be met with endless excuses for why the latest concession is never good enough, then maybe exceptions aren’t worth the trouble anymore.

Instead of a pool of hundreds of feckless politicians who can be almost singlehandedly derailed by a few lone dissenters, maybe it’s time to see what a smaller yet more unified core of lawmakers could do, armed with the confidence that an uncompromising message eloquently delivered can reach listeners whom Renee Ellmers and company have written off.

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