Republicans See Planned Parenthood Videos as Boost For 20-Week Abortion Ban

The House says the videos show the need for its legislation, but the Senate isn’t planning on taking it up anytime soon.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (R), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) speak about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. The news conference was held to discuss immigration control issues that are before Congress.
National Journal
Caitlin Owens
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Caitlin Owens
July 23, 2015, 4 p.m.

As GOP lead­ers de­bate how to pro­ceed with a push to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood, some House Re­pub­lic­ans are us­ing the video con­tro­versy to pres­sure the Sen­ate in­to act­ing on a 20-week abor­tion ban bill.

They say the re­la­tion­ship between videos that have gone vir­al de­pict­ing a Planned Par­ent­hood of­fi­cial dis­cuss­ing fetal tis­sue and or­gans, and the an­ti­abor­tion le­gis­la­tion passed this year in the House, is that tis­sue is more use­ful the older and more de­veloped the fetus is.

The catch is that Sen­ate lead­er­ship is, at best, busy with the high­way le­gis­la­tion and, at worst, wor­ried about cre­at­ing a polit­ic­al mess.

Pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham has in­tro­duced a 20-week ban in the Sen­ate, and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell said last month the bill would get a vote at some point.

GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates could use it to flex their muscles on con­ser­vat­ive prin­ciples. However, it would not be good for vul­ner­able sen­at­ors up for reelec­tion in 2016, who would in­stantly be ac­cused of join­ing in on the war on wo­men.

“This could be more than they bar­gain for,” Dan Mendel­son, CEO of Avalere Health, an in­de­pend­ent con­sult­ing firm, wrote in an email. “While the present press cycle is gen­er­at­ing some mo­mentum among con­ser­vat­ives, there are reas­ons why the 20-[week] ban has not been en­acted — it’s gen­er­ally op­posed by mod­er­ates. Re­stric­tions on abor­tion also have a way of en­er­giz­ing the Left — which is prob­ably not something Re­pub­lic­ans want to do at this point.”

But the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is ur­ging a vote as soon as pos­sible, ac­cord­ing to a com­mit­tee aide.

“The pro­spects of al­ter­ing an abor­tion pro­ced­ure in or­der to pre­serve in­tact the or­gans of abor­ted chil­dren, in­clud­ing their brains, re­minds us yet again of the hor­rors of late-term abor­tions, and the need for the Sen­ate to pass the Pain-Cap­able Un­born Child Pro­tec­tion Act,” the com­mit­tee wrote in a state­ment after the re­lease of the first video last week.

Mc­Con­nell has not yet an­nounced a sched­ule bey­ond the high­ways le­gis­la­tion, and lead­er­ship is fo­cus­ing on get­ting that done.

“I want to get a trans­port­a­tion bill passed. That’s what we’re fo­cused on right now,” Sen. John Bar­rasso said.

But, House mem­bers said, the videos and sub­sequent up­roar present an op­por­tune mo­ment for the le­gis­la­tion that might not al­ways be there.

“I would urge them to take it up wheth­er the video came out or not, but this gives a little bit more im­min­ence to it, be­cause it could push late-term abor­tions,” Rep. Joe Pitts said.

Sen. Or­rin Hatch, chair­man of the Fin­ance Com­mit­tee, said the le­gis­la­tion should not be brought up “in the middle of the high­way bill.”

“I don’t think we should stop what we’re do­ing right now, which is also very im­port­ant,” he said. “That should be brought up in an ap­pro­pri­ate time when people’s minds are on it and when a case could be made.”

But he does think it’s an im­port­ant dis­cus­sion to be had.

“Nobody wants to get in­to an abor­tion fight here, but you can’t ig­nore what they’re do­ing,” Hatch said. “You don’t have to be an­ti­abor­tion to feel that way. I think any reas­on­able per­son would say, ‘Oh my gosh, how far are they go­ing to go on this ap­proach?’ They’ve gone too far.”

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