A 30-minute "pray-in" organized at the door of Speaker John A. Boehner's office by anti-abortion groups ended Wednesday morning with eight arrests.
"We were told yesterday by Speaker Boehner's office that this is the most pro-life Congress that has ever been installed, and yet a ban on late-term abortions ... has languished in the House, the so-called 'most pro-life House in the last 70 years,'" said Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, a prominent activist who was handcuffed by Capitol Police after dropping to his knees outside the Ohio Republican's Longworth office. Two months earlier, a group of women and moderate members of the House Republican Conference convinced GOP leadership that blowback for voting to ban abortions after 20 weeks could alienate voting blocs of women and young people. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., chairwoman of the Women’s Republican Policy Committee, led the charge to replace the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” with a less restrictive alternative, as the annual March for Life descended on D.C.
"We were betrayed that day and we gave them two extra months to come up with some language and pass the bill," Newman said. "That has not been done, so we're calling on Speaker Boehner and the rest of the House to put this to a vote. Get your act together, get the language together and get a vote together, because there's nothing more important you can do right now than save these babies from certain death."
Prominent activists including Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition and blogger Jill Stanek led the protest to pressure House leadership into passing the bill. The dozen or so protesters drew a throng of reporters and nearly as many Capitol Police, who kept the demonstration calm and orderly, and cleared the hallway for passersby.
Stanek said she wanted to reorient the public that "we are talking about real babies who feel excruciating pain as they are ripped apart limb-by-limb before they die."
When asked about the protest's pleas, Boehner aide Olivia Hnat repeated the speaker's commitment to the anti-abortion base of the party. “Congressman Boehner is 100 percent pro-life and, indeed, the most pro-life speaker in the history of the House," Hnat said in an email. "The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act remains an important priority for the pro-life majority that he leads in the House.”
Related: What the House GOP’s Abortion Bill About-Face Really Means The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.