Democrats miss opportunity to support women
© Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a class on the legislative process to some high school students. The kids were playing the role of House and Senate members in a conference committee, and I charged them with working out the differences between their two bills. The frustrated students came to a stalemate and looked to me for answers. They inquired if this is what really happens during the legislative process. Sadly, there has been very little compromising in this Congress. The students, however, were able to do what our own Congress is not doing. They negotiated, and each legislative chamber gave up something important to them in order to reach the broader goal for the common good.

The U.S. Senate had an opportunity to put this practice to use on Tuesday, when they considered H.36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban terminations of unborn babies at 20 weeks and later.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York wrote on his blog, “The late-term ban is a particularly interesting case. There are efforts to link it with other measures, such as an expansion of paid family leave after a woman gives birth, or an increase in assistance to teen parents. This strategy gives real substance to the inherent connection between the pro-life and pro-woman messages, and it reaches out to form coalitions across party and ideological lines.”  

But a majority of Democrats in the Senate voted against cloture, thereby not even allowing a debate to ensue on this or further support for pregnant women. Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHouse GOP frets over Pennsylvania race Do the numbers add up for Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania? Poll: Five Senate Dems would lose to GOP challenger if elections held today MORE (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to speed up infrastructure permitting 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Koch-backed group launches six-figure ad buy against Heitkamp MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinCoal miners' union to endorse Manchin Washington VIPs gather to celebrate Mark Penn's new book Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps MORE (W.Va.) all voted to allow debate to continue.

Casey has drafted an amendmentto extend and expand funding for the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, which currently provides support for pregnant women both during and after pregnancy.  We share Casey’s belief that to end abortion, we must also ensure that the woman and her family have the means and the ability to care for that new child. However, since 60 senators failed to allow a national debate, there will also not be any opportunity to discuss support for pregnant women.

The 20-week ban is not radical.  As many senators pointed out this week, the U.S. is one of seven countries that allow late-term abortion.  We are one of the few developed nations that do not ban abortion beyond 20 weeks.  This is a moral impasse for one of the richest countries: not to stand up for the unborn, considering that we have the means to provide additional help to parents as needed.

That is why Democrats For Life of America endorses not only H.R. 36, but also Casey’s amendment to extend and expand the Pregnancy Assistance Fund.  A ban on abortion must go hand in hand with support for mothers and their families, which is why we also support a national discussion on paid maternity leave.  Many women seek abortions for fear of losing their jobsand income to support their families.  We had hoped that a few more brave Democratic senators would join Casey, Donnelly and Manchin to allow debate on these measures.  Maybe I will have to take those high school students to Capitol Hill to remind the Senate how democracy is supposed to work.

Day is executive director of Democrats for Life of America.