Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Reps. Ben McAdams (UT), Dan Lipinski (IL), and Collin Peterson (MN), joined their GOP colleagues in signing a discharge petition that could force a vote on anti-choice legislation in the Democratic-majority House.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) is leading the petition effort and hopes to gather the 218 signatures needed to force a floor vote on HR 962, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” The legislation, introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) in February, is based on the myth that abortion providers routinely murder infants “born alive” after abortions.
The petition had 199 signatures as of Monday. Scalise noted the support of the three House Democrats in a tweet the day prior, adding that the petition would “need 18 more Dems to sign on to get it to the floor.”
Peterson and Lipinski’s decision to sign the petition comes as little surprise—both Democrats were co-sponsors of the bill. Another Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX), is also a co-sponsor, though he told Roll Call in late March that he would not sign on to the discharge petition because he didn’t “want to change the procedures.”
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McAdams—the only Democrat to sign on to the petition who had not co-sponsored the measure—said in a statement to Rewire.News that he wanted to see the issue come up for debate. “I believe in the sanctity of life and that abortion is too common in America,” McAdams said. “The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act requires a health-care practitioner to take specific steps to care for an infant who survives an abortion or an attempted abortion. I support the discharge petition to have the important debate on this legislation.”
Scalise in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon suggested the GOP could leverage the “born-alive” bill as an election issue as Congress heads toward another critical election cycle. Democrats’ decision on the bill “is going to come back,” Scalise said. “It shocks people,” he told the publication. “I think a lot of swing voters who moved toward Democrats in the last election will look at this issue.” He did not respond to Rewire.News‘ request for comment.
Adrienne Kimmell, vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, expressed disappointment that some Democrats had signed onto Scalise’s petition. “This discharge petition is another desperate attempt by the anti-choice GOP to attack reproductive freedom,” Kimmell said. “We are disappointed in the few Democratic Representatives, including Reps. McAdams, Lipinski, and Peterson, and their shameful decision to throw women, who make up the base of the Democratic party, under the bus for a political stunt.”
McAdams in 2018 won a tight race against Mia Love, the Republican incumbent who made no secret of her hardline anti-choice views, for her seat in the House. On the campaign trail, Love attempted to contrast her position on abortion with McAdams’. McAdams at the time, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, noted his “deeply held beliefs about the sanctity of life.” But he told the publication in an earlier interview that “Ultimately, decisions about terminating a pregnancy should be made by a woman in consultation with her physician, family members, and faith counselors she trusts.”
A review by the Tribune of McAdams’ record as a Utah state senator “found that there were at least seven bills related to restricting access to abortion that McAdams voted against.” But, the publication noted, “McAdams said many of his votes were due to what he considered flaws in the way the legislation was written, not evidence of a pro-abortion-rights stance.”
McAdams’ seat in the House is considered vulnerable in 2020. Utah’s 4th Congressional District is rated as a “toss-up” by the Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales/Roll Call race ratings.
Lipinski, who represents Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, has a long record as an anti-choice Democrat. He faced a heated primary during the 2018 election cycle driven in part by his opposition to abortion rights. Less than 2,000 votes ultimately decided the primary race between him and his pro-choice challenger, Marie Newman. Pro-choice advocates have already signaled that Lipinski’s seat may again become a target in the Democratic primary for 2020.
Peterson too has been a consistent vote against abortion rights and is a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. In a recent newsletter, Peterson said he “was proud to sign” the discharge petition. “I have been a strong supporter of life throughout my tenure in Congress, and we must continue to protect the unborn,” he said.
The offices of Peterson and Lipinski did not respond to Rewire.News‘ request for comment.