US Senate’s doomed vote on radical abortion bill: Here’s what to know

Katie Yoder   By Katie Yoder for CNA

 

Credit: Unsplash. / null

Washington D.C., May 11, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to move forward with what pro-life leaders describe as “The Abortion on Demand Until Birth Act.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 (WHPA), or S.4132, would “enshrine a virtually unlimited abortion ‘right’ in federal law and block common ground pro-life laws around the country,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), has warned.

The May 11 vote — which is expected to fail — is Democrats’ response to a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

“[F]or the first time in fifty years, women in America face the real possibility of living in a world where the protections of Roe v. Wade are a thing of the past,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “And there will be no hiding from where each of us stands on this most precious, most private, most personal decision that women ever have to make when it comes to their own bodies.”

An almost identical version of the WHPA failed in the Senate in February. The vote fell along party lines, with only one Democrat (Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia) voting against proceeding with the bill that would override states’ pro-life laws and remove restrictions on abortion up to the point of birth in some cases. No Republican voted in support of the WHPA.

The WHPA, which needs 60 votes to move forward, is expected to fail again in a similar way, with the Senate split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

“It would impose abortion up until the moment of birth without any limits in all 50 states,” Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana, the founder and chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, said on the floor Tuesday. “In a nutshell, this radical bill would make the United States of America one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a preborn child.”

Daines, who previously spoke with CNA about Democrats’ response to the leaked draft opinion, cited a saint — Mother Teresa of Calcutta — during his Tuesday remarks.

At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Mother Teresa urged, “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of an innocent child.”

She added: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

What is the WHPA?

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade later this year, as the leaked draft opinion suggests, then abortion could be left up to individual states. The WHPA threatens pro-life state laws.

The act’s text lists a series of specific restrictions it would do away with, on everything from limitations on telemedicine to restrictions around viability, which the act defines as the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb — determined by “the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider.”

The WHPA would forbid any kind of limit on abortion before fetal viability, including “a prohibition or restriction on a particular abortion procedure.” After viability, the WHPA would outlaw limits on abortion “when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

National pro-life groups, such as SBA List, have expressed concern over this section because the Supreme Court, in Doe v. Bolton, broadly defined what “may relate to health,” including “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.”

In the past, SBA List has warned that the WHPA would also “nullify pro-life laws in states across the country, including late-term abortion limits when unborn children can feel pain, waiting periods, informed consent laws, antidiscrimination laws, and more.”

The Catholic position

In February, 13 Catholic senators, including Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), voted in favor of the WHPA. Casey says he will vote in favor of it again, on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden, who also is Catholic, and his administration have repeatedly expressed support for the WHPA.

The Catholic Church condemns abortion in the strongest possible terms.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Church teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn human person and considers abortion a “crime against human life.”

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II addressed abortion in light of politics.

“I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person’s natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law,” he wrote. “For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.”

The “Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life,” he added.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith later explained the late pontiff’s teaching in a doctrinal note on “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life.”

“John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” it read. “For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”


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2 Comments

  1. John Paul II’s remark is an example of clear, definitive and seriously held [meeting the standards of LG 25) authentic Magisterium even if not formally pronounced ex Cathedra. Not all who claim Catholicism as their faith pay heed. Although, they’ll abide by any loosely made claim, any offhand remark during a flight, or ambiguously stated to the media that is to their liking.
    That the Doctrinal Commentary to Fides et Ratio is forgotten tells us that doctrine has become less coherent. The model for this, which more are beginning to recognize is the German Synodal Way, which relies on public opinion and secular science rather than the Deposit of the Faith for guidance. Surely some of the agenda now discussed in the great Synod on synodality by relator cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich, Fr James Martin SJ, Sister Jeannine Gramick New Ways Ministry would be acceptable if it were more a warm welcoming embrace for LGBT to shed the old and embrace Christ the Way, the truth and the Life. But Fr Martin, card Hollerich, Sr Gramick and a host of others will not have it that way. Its been pointed out before that homosexuals are rarely if ever prolife. At least rarely a word said about the abortion slaughter from that group. There’s a lot of talented people in that group, that if they and their issues were seriously addressed would potentially really make a benevolent impact on the entire movement.

  2. I look forward to the day when the man currently referred to as “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)” has no more influence over the United States than his participation at the ballot box in his home state.

    The legislation, which would have been opposed by Hippocrates, failed in the US Senate by a vote of 49 in favor to 51 opposed.

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