Saturday, December 18, 2010

S. 987 Vote: More Proof that "Pro-Life" Isn't About Protecting Children

Clarissa and Anthony McCarthy (at Echidne's blog) have both written about the U.S. House of Representatives' failure to pass a bill that would help protect young girls around the world from being forced into marriage, often to much-older men who will abuse them, rape them and force them to bear children before they are full-grown.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010, or S. 987, passed unanimously in the Senate and had lots of support in the House, to the extent that it looked like it was going to pass easily. (As it should, since it's one of civilized society's major duties to protect its most vulnerable members --- children being among them --- from exploitation and harm). But in the hours leading up to the House vote, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (a Republican from Florida) circulated a "Dear Colleagues" letter asking fellow Republicans not to vote for the bill, but instead to vote for an alternate version of it which she authored.

The full text of that letter is reproduced at the end of this post at RH Reality Check --- the gist of it is that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen believes that S. 987, as it was written, would cost too much, and that her own alternate bill would be cheaper to implement.

According to another Representative, Rep. Betty McCollum (a Democrat from Minnesota), there's no basis for this objection; she says the bill does not appropriate any new funds whatsoever. And, indeed, in my own perusal of the bill's full text (which is short), I could find no mention of money, or of things that cost money, like establishing new agencies, task forces or research initiatives. The text of the bill seemed to me to deal only in guidelines for allocating funding that already exists.

Anyway, hours after Ros-Lehtinen sent out her letter, just before the bill was to be voted on, Republican Majority Whip Eric Cantor sent out a "Whip Alert" (a short message telling rank-and-file party members what the party line is going to be) saying this:
Leadership and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen OPPOSE passage of S. 987, the International Child Marriage bill, because of cost and pro-life concerns.
S. 987 authorizes $108 million over 5 years without sufficient oversight of the taxpayers' money. According to the Congressional Research Service, there is no available, confirmed figure on how much taxpayer funding is already being used to fight child marriage in developing countries and this bill does not address that issue.
There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that perform abortions and [that] efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws.

After receiving those two messages, almost all of the House Republicans (along with nine Democrats), did indeed vote "No" on S. 987. It still received a majority of votes --- 241 ayes and 166 nays --- but it wasn't a big enough majority to pass.

This is a truly mystifying outcome; not only does the bill not call for any new spending, it also doesn't say anything about abortion. On its face, this is actually a very pro-life bill: it protects children and aims to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Even Sen. Sam Brownback*, a very, very pro-life senator, not only voted for the Senate version of this bill, but he apparently worked very hard to get it passed, so important was it to his vision of a Culture of Life.

It looks to me like they derailed this important, necessary, moral bill out of sheer orneriness; non-cooperation for its own sake, and the consequences be damned.

*"God's Senator" --- many of whose policy positions I abhor, but whom I at least respect for being consistently pro-life, and having "pro-life" mean more than just "anti-abortion." He has written, sponsored and supported lots of humanitarian-aid legislation, and he's often willing to cross party lines to get that sort of thing done. I've voted for him as a Senator before for that reason, but after this session he's leaving the Senate to become Governor of Kansas. I do not think that will go well, at all.


Greenconsciousness said...

here is my question - is this bill only for women of other countries or would it also apply to the US?

Greenconsciousness said...


Clarissa posted alot of those answers - over at her place answering my questions--come and see

Greenconsciousness said...

There is a petition people are signing to ask Congress to reconsider this bill.

Greenconsciousness said...

Anonymous said...

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