October 3, 2017
On Tuesday afternoon I turned on CSPAN for a mere four minutes of a House debate over H.R. 36—the so-called “fetal pain” ban that would make abortion completely illegal in every state in the nation once a pregnancy hits 22 weeks' gestation. In just those four minutes I heard three different Republicans discuss the “excruciating pain” that they believe fetuses feel in the womb during a later abortion, despite all reputable medical studies that insist that no such thing is true.
“Why aren’t my colleagues on the other side of the aisle acknowledging that pain?” demanded Congresswoman Lynn Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming.
Less than 48 hours earlier, more than 500 people were mowed down in a mass shooting in Las Vegas, resulting in at least 59 deaths. Why aren’t Congressional Republicans addressing that pain? I wondered to myself in response.
The GOP has spent millions of dollars and decades of messaging to promote themselves as the “pro-life” party and the side of the aisle that truly cares about children. Yet at every single turn, they continue to block any legislation that will actually improve—or especially save—the lives of the youth of our nation.
Killing Obamacare has become an obsession that has dominated four election cycles, with Republican campaigning on promises of a “better” health-care system that will free families from the odious burden of being able to easily obtain affordable insurance for their poor or sick children. Ending free or lower cost meals through schools may not do much to decrease the national debt, but at least it will teach students that only the privileged deserve to learn on a full stomach. And raising taxes on the lowest tax bracket may seem like it would be cutting off resources for the most vulnerable of families to get out of poverty but hey, maybe they’ll find better jobs if their billionaire business owners decide to invest their own windfalls in expanded hiring.
Yet it’s the unwavering support for the National Rifle Association and their refusal to consider even the most minimal of gun restrictions that puts their “pro-life, pro-children” credentials the most into question. According to a recent study, almost 1,300 children in the U.S. are killed in gun violence each year. Nearly 6,000 are injured severely enough to require a trip to the emergency room. Yet despite tragedies like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary or daily, smaller shootings, not only is the right completely opposed to any sort of discussion about reasonable gun laws, they continue to push for even laxer laws like deregulation of gun silencers (since there is nothing worse than hearing that you are about to be showered with bullets) or making permits to carry extend out of state despite other state’s own laws.
Guns injure and kill children and at an increasingly large number every year. Guns are so dangerous that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges households with children simply to not have one at all. According to a review of studies by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, U.S. children aged 5 to 14 are 11 times more likely to die from an accidental gunshot wound than children in other developed countries.
And the GOP’s answer? Let's make guns even quieter and easier to obtain.
It’s impossible at this point to understand the “pro-life” stance of these so-called pro-life Republicans. In an effort to end health-care reform, the GOP casually forgot to reauthorize the funding for a bipartisan, highly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program that is responsible for keeping annual checkups, prenatal exams, and affordable care for roughly 9 million young patients or expecting mothers from low- and lower-income families without insurance coverage. Now that states are in danger of running out of money to fund CHIP, Republicans are not only trying to reduce the funding, they are demanding cuts to Medicaid and the ACA in exchange. Their love of the “unborn” is just as circumstantial in their immigration policy, where pregnant people in ICE detention centers are being denied medical care and in some cases miscarrying and then being locked back up.
Meanwhile, in a cynical move to take away a pregnant person’s ability to make decisions about her own pregnancy—something that is a constitutional right up until the point of viability—these same Republican politicians are trying to ban abortion prior to a medically accepted point of viability under the claim of saving “babies” from “pain.”
Congresswoman Cheney is right: It is time for both sides of the aisle to acknowledge children’s pain.
It is time for the GOP to talk about the pain a child feels when they don’t have enough to eat at home and hunger is gnawing at their stomachs, but lawmakers have chosen to restrict the cap on SNAP benefits or fought against a mandatory living wage.
It is time for the GOP to discuss the pain a child feels when a parent is ripped from their lives because they overstayed a work visa and committed the crime of staying in the country undocumented simply for the chance to offer a better life to their family.
It is time for the GOP to discuss the pain a child feels when a family member won’t take them to a doctor, instead treating their illness at home because there is no money for a co-pay or the insurance deductible is too high, and the only choice is to wait and see if it goes away on its own, or requires a visit to the emergency room.
It is time for the GOP to discuss the very real and undeniable pain an actual baby born with a severe medical defects may experience in their very short lives, all because Republicans decided to use a medically unsubstantiated claim of “fetal pain” to deny their parents the right to obtain an abortion.
But most importantly it’s time for the GOP to discuss the pain that was felt by the 20 children gunned down at Sandy Hook or the 25 children who die as a result of gunfire weekly. Let’s talk about the babies who die in utero or soon after when pregnant people are gunned down by intimate acquaintances or strangers.
Lives are being lost at an alarming rate and it is time for the “pro-life” party to start being responsible for those lives, instead. Stop banning abortion, Republicans, and start banning guns instead.