When Democrats take over the House in January, bills that will force them to go on record about social issues that are divisive within the party will probably no longer make their way onto the floor. Which is why Republicans are so anxious to needle them with one last push for Sam Brownback's paleolithic Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act:
Proposed federal legislation would require doctors to provide fetal pain information to women seeking abortions when fetuses are at least 20 weeks old, and to offer women fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of states have enacted similar measures.
The review says medical evidence shows that brain structures involved in feeling pain begin forming earlier but likely do not function until around the seventh month, when fetuses are about 28 weeks old.
Offering fetal pain relief in the fifth or sixth month, when brains are too immature to feel pain, is misguided and might result in unacceptable health risks to women, the authors said.
So basically, the bill forces doctors to provide pregnant women with misinformation that could result in them taking unnecessary actions that could jeopardize their health. One might think that an organization dedicated to women's reproductive rights would object to such a thing, but one would be wrong:
While the measure has provoked strong opposition from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, perhaps the nation's leading abortion rights group, has stayed neutral.
"Pro-choice Americans have always believed that women deserve access to all the information relevant to their reproductive health decisions. For some women, that includes information related to fetal anesthesia options," Nancy Keenan, NARAL's president, has said in a statement on the bill.
Democratic leaders cited NARAL's position when they decided against trying to influence the vote. Democratic leadership aides said yesterday that they are leery of Republicans charging that they are already out of touch with mainstream values, even before they assume power.
NARAL's actions have put pro-choice representatives in a horrible position by giving cover to this cynical ploy to embarrass and divide Democrats and provide fundamentalist kindling for Brownback's 2008 bid. It's what we've come to expect from NARAL's Nancy Keenan, who put up no fight against Samuel Alito and undermined Connecticut NARAL's efforts to force all publicly funded hospitals to provide emergency rape contraception by endorsing Joe "short ride" Lieberman, who opposed it.
I know she's anxous not to alienate her GOP donor base who haven't yet tumbled to the fact that when push comes to shove there is no such thing as a pro-choice Republican, but really this is just getting ridiculous.
Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com.