How Republicans Watered Down Their Abortion Message on Sunday
To his credit, Senator Mitch McConnell used the occasion of the annual congressional debate over the Hyde Amendment to talk about how he wants to reduce the federal deficit. But that was not the focus he sought to highlight. Instead, he wanted to focus on the issue of abortion and the federal government’s role in funding it. By doing so, McConnell hoped to use the debate to draw attention again to the threat to women’s access to abortion.
The Senate Republican conference was set to debate the anti-abortion Senate version of the bill, which would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, on the Sunday talk shows. The debate would have been a highly scripted event featuring surrogates for the pro-life party, including Mitch McConnell, and other Republican leaders. But McConnell had set off a firestorm of controversy by telling the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Terry Gross that he could not take support from all of the pro-life groups, including the National Organization for Women.
The Republican leaders were furious about McConnell’s decision not to include or endorse groups that support women’s access to abortions. But they were also furious about the way the event was scheduled, with the House-passed version of the bill, which does not change the Hyde Amendment, having been scheduled for debate on the Sunday after the Senate vote. Republican leaders wanted to see what the House’s version of the bill would look like rather than what was left of the Senate’s. But they also wanted to allow the House bill to come into the Senate debate so the senators would have as much information as possible about the House’s version.
That resulted in the Senate Republican conference splitting into opposing factions, each determined to kill the Affordable Care Act. There was no room to include any third-party groups in the debate. To those who saw the issue of abortion as too divisive to let this debate occur, the Republicans’ decision to hold the debate without any support from pro-life groups caused outrage.
“Anybody that has listened to what we have heard about this bill is sickened by what it means for the future of women’s health care,” said Emily Bazelon, executive director of the liberal Center for