Pro-life leaders express outrage after Senate fails to pass 20-week abortion ban

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PROVIDENCE — Local pro-life leaders are lending their voices to the growing ranks of advocates across the country denouncing the Senate’s recent failure to pass a 20-week abortion ban.

Rhode Island Right to Life Executive Director Barth E. Bracy and Diocese of Providence Respect Life Coordinator Carol Owens said they are extremely disappointed that both Ocean State senators, Sen. Jack Reed, a Catholic, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, an Episcopalian, failed to support passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Both Democrats voted against the measure, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, a point at which a fetus is believed to be able to feel pain.In a 51-46 tally on Jan. 29, the bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to advance to a final vote.

“Rhode Islanders should be outraged that pro-abortion Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse refused to protect late-term unborn babies who can feel pain, as Representatives Langevin and Cicilline refused when the bill was voted upon last October in the House,” Bracy said in a statement to Rhode Island Catholic.

Bracy cited a recent Marist poll on abortion which shows that 63 percent of Americans support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, including 56 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of those who identify as “pro-choice.”

“It is clear that the members of our congressional delegation have taken an extreme position on abortion and are out of touch with the people,” Bracy said.

Owens said she was “truly disappointed” by Senator Reed’s decision to oppose the defense of human life, which is a tenet of his faith.

“While Mr. Reed had an opportunity to stand for human life, he has once again taken a hard stand against life in its most vulnerable stage, that of an unborn child,” she said.

“This is a huge disappointment and disregard for an innocent unborn child who can feel extreme pain. What happened to human rights and dignity and the inalienable right to life? Doesn’t that mean it cannot be given or taken away?”

Although three Democrats supported the bill — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted against it.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decried the Democrats’ filibuster of the bill.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the vote “appalling.”

“The Senate’s rejection of this common-sense legislation is radically out of step with most Americans,” he said in a statement released late on Jan. 29.

The cardinal is calling on senators to “rethink” their position on late term abortions, noting his concern that abortions performed in the latter half of a woman’s pregnancy usually involve the dismemberment of the unborn child, and also put the lives of the mother at risk.

“Furthermore, the United States is currently one of only seven countries that allows abortions beyond 20 weeks,” he said in the USCCB statement, citing Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam as the other six.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said that citizens across the nation should be outraged that a measure to protect life in the womb was defeated.

“Americans should be outraged that pro-abortion Senate Democrats refuse to protect unborn babies who can feel pain,” Tobias said in a statement.

“We will keep coming back to the Senate again and again until it passes this bill,” she said.

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, criticized senators who voted against the bill for “believing the excruciating killings should continue.”

He said in a statement that senators “voted against the wishes of the American public, against science, and most importantly, against the human rights of innocent babies. Every senator who voted to defeat this human rights legislation deserves to feel the pain of defeat at the ballot box,” he said.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said it was “a disgrace that our Senate has once again failed to pass a bill that reflects the hearts and minds of the national pro-life consensus.”

President Trump, in a statement on Jan. 29 said “it is disappointing” that the pro-life bill failed, saying that he had been poised to sign the legislation if it had passed.

“We must defend those who cannot defend themselves,” the president’s statement said. “I urge the Senate to reconsider its decision and pass legislation that will celebrate, cherish, and protect life.”

Reports from Catholic News Service were used in this story.