No, It’s Not ‘Childish’ to Insist

David FrenchOn a Reporting Requirement for Late-Term Abortions


It is extraordinarily disappointing to see Representative Renee Ellmers slamming pro-life groups as “childish” for insisting on a rape-reporting requirement in the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Both the reporting requirement itself and the angry response to the House’s failure to bring the measure to a vote — handing abortionists a victory on the very day of the March for Life — were reasonable, defensible, and right.

Representative Ellmers (and her sympathizers in the House GOP) fail to understand how much pro-life groups are compromising to support bills with rape/incest exceptions to abortion bans. A child conceived in rape or incest is every bit as human, every bit as innocent, and every bit as capable of feeling pain when dismembered as a child conceived in different circumstances. Pro-life groups typically support bills with rape/incest exceptions not because they believe children of rape or incest are any less human but because they understand current political reality — that it’s better to save some lives when pushing for purity could result in saving none.

However, this compromise isn’t viable as a matter of principle or policy if the exceptions become so large that they swallow the rule. If there were no rape reporting requirement, unscrupulous late-term abortionists (I’m being redundant) could simply make the rape claim part of a standard checklist, an unverified assertion that would render the exception exactly as broad as the abortionist wants. Adding a box that an abortionist can pre-check isn’t protecting women or babies, it’s simply reinforcing the status quo.

We don’t elect pro-life legislators to take stands that the Huffington Post loves and the mainstream media adores. Nor do we elect pro-life legislators to merely cast the right votes. We want our pro-life leaders to make the case for life, to actually try to win over the undecideds. In this case, pro-life politicians bailed on a late-term-abortion ban that the public overwhelmingly supports, and they blame — that’s right –”outside groups.”

For years, I’ve heard congressional apologists assure me that political leaders are doing all they can, that activist groups don’t understand the need to compromise and that the activist need for a “100 percent solution” creates a zero percent outcome. But what about cases like this, when pro-life leaders had already compromised, supported a popular bill, and then watched it fail — through no fault of their own? Are they supposed to quietly thank Republicans for their meager efforts and applaud the weak fallback bills that pass the House? Is that their role?

I would urge every pro-life conservative to read Joel Gehrke’s outstanding report about the “quarrel that blew up the GOP abortion bill.” This was a political failure, not an activist failure, and no amount of name-calling will change that uncomfortable fact.

Books by David French: Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War and A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School.

David French is a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a former Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, and a past president of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. He has taught at Cornell Law School and served as a commercial litigation partner in the firm of Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald. His legal practice is concentrated on constitutional law and the international law of armed conflict, and he is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. David is the author of multiple books.

Used with the permission of The American Center for Law and Justice.