The House on Friday passed legislation overriding state pro-life laws and removing limits on abortion up to the point of birth in some cases.
The chamber passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), by a vote of 218 to 211 largely along party lines. The bill recognizes a “statutory right” to abortion, blocking state abortion regulations and removing restrictions on pre-viability abortions.
It also blocks limits on late-term abortions in cases where the “life or health” of the mother is determined to be at risk – which allows abortions until birth without “meaningful” limits, the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) has warned.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, the USCCB’s pro-life chair, has warned that the bill also mandate public funding of abortion, and could require health care workers to perform or assist in abortions against their consciences.
The legislation is “really about abortion up until birth,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a call with reporters on Friday.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill.
Individual U.S. bishops this week called on members of Congress to oppose the bill.
“The Church is clear that all abortion is evil, and it is true that laws and regulations will go only so far in protecting the unborn,” stated Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver on Wednesday. “We no doubt have much work to do to change the hearts and minds of those who view abortion as something to be valued, especially among those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.”
“However,” he added, the bill “will put thousands of vulnerable lives at risk, and it must be prevented from becoming law.”
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) – a Catholic who resides in the San Francisco archdiocese – explained her “disagreement” with her local ordinary Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on legal abortion. She said that God gave people “free will” to choose abortion, and that it was not the “business” of lawmakers to make that decision for them.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Friday called on members of Congress to use their “free will” and “vote no to legalizing the killing of babies even weeks from birth.”
Pelosi had announced earlier in September that the House would vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, following Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law going into effect. On the House floor on Friday, she cited her faith as she defended the legislation.
“I come to this as a Catholic, mother of five [children] in six years, and one week,” she said. “And the joy that all that meant to us. But with the recognition that my husband and I – it was our decision.”
The House, she said, “should not be making decisions for the women in America.”
The bill comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a major abortion case in December, on Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court will consider the question of whether all bans on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional – possibly setting the stage to alter or reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Pro-life leaders on Friday said the pro-abortion legislation was extreme.
“If Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and their allies get their way, the United States will soon be indistinguishable from North Korea and China on the human rights issue of abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.
“For the first time ever by congressional statute, this legislation would legally enable the death – the violent death - of unborn baby girls and boys by dismemberment, decapitation, forced expulsion from the womb, and deadly poisons, for any reason until birth,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
“This bill will nullify every modest pro-life restriction ever enacted by the states,” he added.
Dannenfelser noted it is “rather unlikely” that the bill “would even get a vote in the Senate.”
“For those of us who stand for life, we must do a better job of listening and loving,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) on the House floor on Friday. “I can imagine abortion seeming like an easy solution,” she said, adding that it “breaks my heart” for those who think abortion is their “best option” or “only option.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) stated that he “proudly voted no” on the bill.
“I encourage those who stand with me to look up your local pregnancy resource center today and see what you can do to help out.”