House Republicans passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy ― a move the Trump administration said will “help to facilitate a culture of life.” The move comes three days after Congress allowed a federal children’s health program to expire, potentially leaving millions of poor children without insurance coverage.
The abortion bill, which the House has passed before, would shorten the time period in which a woman can legally seek an abortion, based on the medically unsupported claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, authored an op-ed on the anti-abortion website LifeNews.com on Monday touting the legislation.
“All of us—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—can agree that the government has a vested interest in protecting the rights of children,” Goodlatte wrote, “and that should include unborn children after 20 weeks.”
Yet Republicans in Congress just missed a deadline to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which helped states provide insurance coverage to 9 million children in low-income families. The Senate had put forth a bipartisan, 5-year bill to renew the program, but didn’t schedule a vote in time, instead prioritizing legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House never even proposed a bill to reauthorize CHIP, which expired at the end of September.
“Republican gridlock has put 9 million children at risk,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y) tweeted on Sunday. “This is unacceptable.”
Democrats also pointed out the hypocrisy of Congress and the president doing nothing to address gun violence, which claimed 12,000 American lives this year alone. The abortion vote comes a day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history, in which a man with at least 20 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas.
There have been 521 mass shootings in this country in 477 days, and the U.S. has a far bigger gun violence problem than any other developed nation, but the 26 bills in Congress that would address gun violence in different ways are all currently languishing without a vote.
“If we had an outbreak every day that had over 100,000 people a year killed and injured, Congress would be in a frenzy,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said on the House floor Tuesday morning. “Yesterday we found two minutes for a moment of silence, and we moved on.”
Meanwhile, bodies are accumulating in morgues in Puerto Rico as the Trump administration lags in its response to the Hurricane Maria disaster. Officials in Puerto Rico have not updated the death toll from the storm in the past week, but people are reporting horrific conditions on the ground ― hospitals running out of fuel and supplies, cancer patients missing chemotherapy treatments, mothers begging for water for their babies.
“It’s tantamount to Mother Nature’s atomic bomb, and we’re doing very little,” said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in asking her colleagues to expedite aid to the U.S. territory last week.
Trump criticized Puerto Ricans for not doing more to help themselves after the devastating hurricane and lamented the logistical challenges of providing aid to the island.
But the White House applauded House lawmakers for acting on abortion.
“The Administration strongly supports the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections,” the White House said in a statement on Monday night.
The legislation passed the House by a 237-189 vote, but it is very unlikely to become law because it lacks the needed 60 votes to make it through the Senate. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Tuesday that the bill is “dead on arrival” and excoriated her colleagues across the aisle for prioritizing it.
“Is the House working on helping families who have lost their loved ones and livelihoods in Puerto Rico? No,” she said. “Are they answering the calls from moms and dads nationwide who want to know when Congress will finally act on gun control? No.”
“There is never a good time for politicians to try to tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies,” she added. “But the House Republican decision to prioritize politics right now — of all times — is irresponsible and out of touch to a new extreme.”