Cover Story

Just how pro are these pro-lifers?

"Just how pro are these pro-lifers?" Continued...

Issue: "Hope or hype?," Jan. 20, 2007

"Our No. 1 priority is having the Congress and the country really place an emphasis on helping pregnant women," said Day, whose group backs Davis' bill. "There are pregnancy centers that help, but not enough people know about them. Not enough women know there is support for them to bring a baby to term."

Day said pro-life Democrats "have a big job to do" in educating party leaders on the value of pregnancy resource centers. She noted repeated anti-pregnancy-center campaigns waged by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and others. In March 2006, Maloney introduced the "Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act," an attack on pregnancy centers that libeled the vast majority by equating them with the handful of clinics that in the early '90s led women to believe they provided abortion services.

Care Net media director Kristen Hansen said Maloney was recycling old charges and "couldn't bring any instances of deceptive advertising." But the headlines still ran and the image still stands, she said. "And we're so busy that we're not launching multi-million ad campaigns about the work that pregnancy centers do-we're doing the work."

Still, in a year of widely touted Democratic moderation on abortion, the bill racked up 45 co-sponsors, including Waxman, who complained that pregnancy centers had received $30 million in federal funding through Bush administration grants. Twenty of 23 centers contacted by Democratic staff investigators, the report claimed, had issued "false or misleading information" about the potential risks of abortion, including increased risk of breast cancer, infertility, and psychological trauma.

Credible research studies say such risks are real. Still, headlines ensued. And now, Waxman will head the Government Operations and Reform Committee, the same committee that in the early '90s went after pregnancy centers, trying to shut them all down.

Some pro-life Democrats will also chair committees: Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota (Transportation Committee); Rep. Collin Peterson, also of Minnesota (Agriculture); and Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri (Armed Services). But militantly pro-abortion Democrats will head committees that, arguably, are better positioned to stymie pro-life bills: Reps. Louise Slaughter and Charlie Rangel, both of New York, will lead the House Rules and the Ways and Means committees, respectively.

How pro-life will such Democratic leaders allow their pro-life colleagues to be? Alabama's Joe Turnham is tempering optimism with realism. "Will pro-life Democrats get everything we want? No," he said. "But will we etch ourselves into the consciousness of the Democratic leadership? I think we're in the process of doing that."

First test

Democratic revival of embryonic stem-cell research bill challenges pro-life caucus

By Lynde Langdon

Voters quickly found out how pro-life pro-life Democrats are. House speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged immediate action on stem-cell research-a bill that would provide new incentive for experimenting on, and in the process destroying, human embryos-and the House passed the measure 253-174 on Jan. 11.

Two Congresses ago, Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced a bill to roll back some Bush restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research. Since then, the bill has been a pawn in intermittent rallies for and against embryonic life. After Korean scientists in 2005 announced an embryonic stem-cell breakthrough, the House passed the Castle bill, which would have loosened the lid on federal funding to create more stem-cell lines, but only those taken from leftover in vitro--fertilization embryos.

Then the lead scientist in the Korean research group admitted falsifying his research, and Congress' urgency to keep up with the Koreans cooled. The Castle bill lay untouched until the Senate passed it last summer. President Bush promptly vetoed the measure-the first veto of his presidency-and Congress could not muster the votes to override him. But once in power, Pelosi vowed to challenge that veto by bringing an identical bill, again sponsored by Castle and DeGette, to the floor during the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress.

It may be up to seven newly elected, pro-life Democrats to make or break the veto override, especially in the Senate. House members Jason Altmire and Chris Carney voted for the House version; Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, Heath Shuler, and Charlie Wilson voted against it. In the Senate, five Republicans voting against the summer version lost their seats in the election, putting the burden of upholding a second veto on Democrats Ben Nelson (the only Democrat to vote pro-life the first time around) and newly elected Bob Casey Jr.

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