The high-profile trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor charged with killing four babies and a Virginia woman has had rank-and-file House Republicans looking for legislative action, and now leadership is also starting to weigh in.
In a Thursday afternoon press release, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. praised two committee chairmen for earlier this week demanding answers from officials in all 50 states regarding what they are doing to combat late-term abortions, such as those that may have taken place at Kermit Gosnell's clinic.
“I commend Chairmen [Robert W.] Goodlatte and [Fred] Upton and their committee members for seeking answers to these questions in letters sent to attorneys general and state health officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia today,” Cantor said of the chairmen of the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees, respectively. “We look forward to receiving responses to those inquiries.”
Goodlatte, of Virginia, along with Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice Chairman Trent Franks, R-Ariz., on Tuesday sent a list of questions to state attorneys general that probed their thoughts on the rights of newborns and unborn babies, policies relating to late-term abortions, and the extent to which they prosecute doctors who evade existing late-term abortion regulations or intentionally kill infants before or after they are delivered.
Upton, of Michigan, focused his Wednesday letters to state health officials on questions about regulations and licensing at abortion clinics in their individual states; the extent of oversight of abortion providers to ensure that safe and legal procedures are being properly administered; and what disciplinary or prosecutorial action gets taken when abortion doctors run afoul of the law.
Upton’s letter was co-signed by Energy and Commerce Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Chairman Emeritus Joe L. Barton, R-Texas; Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa.; Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa.; and Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, vice chairman of the subcommittees on Health and Oversight and Investigations.
“We have all watched with horror as the atrocities allegedly committed by Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell have been revealed during his ongoing trial for the murder of four babies, allegedly causing the death of one woman, and hundreds of other criminal counts,” Cantor said in his press release. “The fact that Gosnell evaded the law for so long has raised issues about whether these clinics are being adequately inspected, and when violations of the law are discovered, whether those are being prosecuted.”
Republicans who by and large embrace a broad anti-abortion stance are likely to use the Gosnell issue as an avenue to condemn abortion practices more broadly.
When asked about what Congress might do about this particular case in particular, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., deflected.
“I think whatever went on there … is really disgusting,” Pelosi said at her Thursday afternoon news conference, “and when we talk about reproductive health for women, that’s not what we’re talking about.”
Also on Thursday, Republican Reps. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Marlin Stutzman, of Indiana, and Blackburn are championing such a nonbinding resolution “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress and the States should investigate and correct abusive, unsanitary, and illegal abortion procedures.”
Cantor's support for efforts at the committee level to investigate the charges against Gosnell and what they might mean for practices elsewhere could signal a willingness on the part of leadership to bring that resolution to the floor in the days ahead.