Last month a bill called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act emerged out of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee with unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. The bill would bolster law enforcers' tools against perpetrators of human trafficking—the horrendous, outrageous modern-day slavery that majors on child labor and prostitution—and create a fund to help those rescued.
Two weeks ago, however, as debate on the Senate floor was about to begin with the bill assured of easy passage, some Democrats challenged a provision in the bill that prohibited money from the fund to be used to pay for abortions for five years. This language, known as the Hyde Amendment, has been included in a variety of laws passed by Congress for the last four decades (and, according to some, has loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through).
In previous legislation, however, the prohibition runs on a one-year renewable term, but in the current bill the term is five years. This expansion was enough to send Democrats to the barricades, accusing Republicans of surreptitiously sneaking the language in, despite that the wording had been in the bill from the very beginning. With Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women whipping the Democratic caucus into shape, forty-three senators voted successfully to block the bill from coming to the floor for a vote, effectively killing it unless Republicans removed the abortion-related language.
We are at a point in history where no Democrat on the national level is allowed to depart from pro-choice orthodoxy (just as no Republican is allowed to raise taxes) if they don't want to be exiled by the party to electoral Siberia. But for many Democrats, their antipathy toward the Hyde Amendment comes from deeply held principle.
Take California Sen. Diane Feinstein, for instance. She grieves over vivid memories of the sentencing of women who went to abortion doctors or even mutilated themselves before abortion became legal because they believed they had no other recourse. Feinstein, like many a 1970s-era feminist (and others of later vintage), generalizes the plight of those women to half the human race. "It is our reproductive system. In a sense this has been a battle for our identity," she said in debate. "There are many of us who believe this is one small step for womankind."
Republicans immediately went on the defensive, believing that to give in to the Democrats' demand would grant a victory to the most radical of pro-choice partisans. Many refused to remove the Hyde Amendment on pro-life principle; seemingly all refused on the grounds that it would give the Democrats an easy victory. Accustomed to hardball, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that the confirmation of Attorney General appointee Loretta Lynch, which has already been languishing for months, will not receive a vote until the trafficking bill passes—in the far-fetched hope, presumably, that President Obama will therefore intervene to change Senate Democrats' minds.
Isn't this just like Satan. All senators oppose the oppression of slaves, so he exploits the fact that half hate the oppression of women and half hate the oppression of the unborn, with the result that all of them—women, the unborn, and most of all slaves—remain just as oppressed as they were in the first place. One can only imagine how the Evil One gets off on this stuff.
For the record, I believe that Senator Feinstein is sincere. I believe that I might even learn something from her about sexist oppression. I also believe, however, that her reasoning is morally grotesque. I fail to see how it safeguards women's reproductive systems to annihilate girls' reproductive systems (and the rest of their bodies) before they are born. I fail to see how an oppressed woman becomes liberated by oppressing the person inside her. And I fail to see how a woman (or a man, for that matter) achieves her identity by winning the power to have sex without having children. In the case of women who are forced by wicked men to have sex by blunt or subtle pressure (like sex in exchange for food), there is indeed a screaming need for liberating justice, but abortion does not accomplish it. If anything, abortion compounds the oppression.
That does not mean, however, that the GOP ought to fight Feinstein and the Democrats tooth and nail. Their fear that it gives the pro-choice lobby a victory that will make it even harder to roll back the slaughter of innocents is legitimate, but it plays right into the Devil's hands. There will not be less injustice in the world because Senate Republicans refuse to strike the Hyde Amendment. There will only be more—more women and children sold into slavery and violated in every imaginable and unimaginable way.
I think if you're a Republican senator in this situation, you vote for an amendment to remove the abortion language from the bill even while you publicly excoriate the Dems for having to do it. And I think if you're a Democratic senator, you vote for the bill as is and start looking for work for when your term ends (or try to make lots of friends by bringing home lots of pork).
You do it not because you like it and not because you can't think of plenty of reasons why it's a bad idea. You do it because you recognize a ploy of the Father of Lies when you see it and you refuse to let him win.