When Democrats wrested control of both houses of Congress in 2006, the pro-life situation looked dire. It was anticipated Dems would try to knock off all pro-life riders on appropriations bills and pass anti-life legislation to boot.
None of that happened. Then last week the Senate even passed a ban against Indian Health Services funding for abortion.
Also last week the House stripped language that had been inserted in the U.S. relief package for AIDS in Africa (PEPFAR) that would have streamed funding to abortion groups.
These days the Democrat Congress sometimes appears as or more pro-life than a Republican Congress.
I asked 2 insiders what is going on. Here’s what they told me….
After Nancy Pelosi became Speaker, pro-life Dems had a private meeting with her to discuss personal and political ramifications for them of introducing pro-abortion legislation or deleting pro-life riders from appropriations bills. The meeting included respected senior pro-life party members, including James Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and Collin Peterson, chair of the Agriculture Committee.
Since then Democrats have not pushed the anti-life agenda other than to increase funding for “family planning,” i.e., Planned Parenthood, and to try to decrease funding for abstinence. They eventually bailed on the latter.
Democrat leadership is keenly aware a wrong move on the abortion issue would fracture its coalition.
How did PEPFAR language get contaminated? The chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos, was very sick – he died February 11 – and it is thought staffers got away with drafting extreme language that thankfully caused an uproar and was beat back.
With the infusion of pro-life Democrats in 2006, the number is now 15-30, depending on the bill. (Embryonic stem cell bills would reveal the lowest common denominator.)
Those added to the 200 pro-life Republicans are enough to defeat anti-life proposals. Senate Democrats had enough votes to delete the Mexico City Policy, which keeps abortion groups from getting international family planning $, but House Democrats did not. So it emerged unscathed.
The 2006 election additionally weeded out many moderate Republicans. Those left are more strongly pro-life.
If Hillary or Obama wins the election, we will again be in bad shape. President Bush has also been a key player by threatening to veto riders with pro-life language removed and PEPFAR with bad language. Obviously, neither Democrat will make that threat.
And if Democrats pick up more seats in the House and Senate, they’ll presumably have more pro-abortion votes and dilute out the pro-life Democrats.
So the situation, while not now dire, is precarious.