Less than two weeks after Rep. Renee Ellmers (R.-N.C.) sabotaged the expected passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, 69 percent of North Carolina Republicans aged 18 to 49 support the ban on abortions after 20-weeks asked directly without conditions or nuance in a Townhall/Gravis poll of 782 randomly selected registered GOP voters.
Sixty percent of Republicans aged 50 to 64 support the ban, as do 55 percent of GOP voters older than 65, said Doug Kaplan, the managing partner of Gravis Insights, the Florida-based pollster the executed the poll. The Jan. 31 poll carries a margin of error of 3.5 percent.he said.
Ellmers, the chairwoman of the Republican Women's Policy Committee, signed up as a co-sponsor of , H.R. 36, Jan. 9, but on the Jan. 20 anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision the congresswoman withdrew her name as a co-sponsor. In 2013, Ellmers voted for the same bill.
Kaplan said 58 percent of all Republican voters, who were asked: “Would you support a federal outlawing abortions after 20 weeks or pregnancy?” said they supported the ban and 27 percent said they were opposed.
Broken down by ethnic communities, 58 percent respondents identifying themselves as Hispanic supported the straight-out 20-week ban, 67 percent of those identifying themselves as Asian, he said.
Kaplan said poll sought to find the solid baseline for opinions on abortion rights without the gaming of questions that other pollsters use to push the results one way or the other.
“By a similar margin, 54 percent to 27 percent, North Carolina Republicans believe the GOP should work to end abortion in America,” he said.
“It was a virtual tie, 41 percent for and 39 percent against, when they were asked if federal law should outlaw all abortions,” he said. Gravis Insights is a non-partisan research firm. The poll were conducted using IVR technology and weighted by selected voting demographics and proprietary modeling.
In a Jan. 21 Facebook post, the congresswoman said: “To clear up any misinformation, I will be voting tomorrow to support H.R. 36 – The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protect Act Resources bill. I have and will continue to be a strong defender of the prolife community.”
The post not only distorted her moves against the bill, but also shifted her support from the unborn to the people fighting for the unborn—in effect announcing that she was not longer of the pro-life movement, but was now a sympathetic outsider.
Consistent with her new outsider posture, Ellmers dug in her high heels with a Jan. 30 post on her official blog, when she dressed down the advocates for the unborn: “I am appalled by the abhorrent and childish behaviors from some of the leaders of the outside groups.”
Furthermore in the post, the congresswoman described herself as both “Pro-life and Compassionate,” as if she was balancing two competing ideals, rather than two unified goals.
The registered nurse told National Journal her opposition to the bill was rooted in her concern that young Americans supported abortion rights and that fighting to protect the unborn was bad for the image of the Republican Party.
In addition to pulling her name as a co-sponsor, Ellmers worked with the House Republican leadership on ways to delay the vote of the pain-capable bill or otherwise weaken its provision that would have encouraged women to report their rapist to law enforcement.
The talks between House GOP leadership and Ellmers, who is married to surgeon Brent R. Ellmers, struck at the heart of the rebooted pro-life movement tactics. On one track, the pro-life movement is focusing the current system as the willing partner of men abusing underage females. The other track, sets asides arguments about the humanity or viability of unborn children, and instead deals with the pain inflicted on the unborn.
In the end, the bill was pulled from the House calendar by leadership—just as hundreds of thousands of advocates for the unborn were mustering for the annual March for Life.
Professor John H. Aldrich, the Pfizer-Pratt professor of political science at http://www.duke.edu/, said while people can blame Ellmers for killing the pain-capable bill, the fault lies with the House GOP leadership.
“They could easily have crafted a perfectly strong and acceptable bill that she would have been happy to support and that the pro-life activists would have been happy to tolerate, maybe even genuinely support,” he said. “But, the leadership simply blew it and didn't pay attention to the full set of strong pro-life GOP members of Congress in their own chamber.”
The aftershocks from pulling of H.R. 36 are still being felt
Capitol Hill conservatives and supporters of restoring legal protections to the unborn are still trying to understand the depths of the betrayal by Ellmers and the House GOP leadership. In the days before the March for Life, as the conspiracy to tank the bill was playing out in the offices just below dome, leadership liaisons to conservatives bragged to them that the passage of the pain-capable bill would prove that the Republican leadership will deliver legislation for the pro-life community.
Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, a IRS registered 501 (c) (4) organization, said she got wind of the Ellmers flip on the Friday before the March for Life.
Fitzgerald said she called Ellmers' office to verify rumors that the congresswoman was working against the pain-capable bill, and while she was not put through to the congresswoman, but she was directed to Chief of Staff Albert G. Lytton.
In that conversation, Lytton confirmed that Ellmers was working against H. R. 36. “I got the impression that the staff was surprised but was going ahead with it.”
The pro-life leader said she was disgusted that Ellmers chose to play the abortion issue for political advantage rather that sticking to principles. “I have always believed that good policy is good politics.”
Professor Andrew J. Taylor, the chairman of the political science department at the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University, said Ellmers was elected in 2010 as part of a greater national conservative wave, but necessarily as an opponent of abortion.
Taylor said Ellmers scored points as a defender of tobacco against new regulations from the Obama administration and an opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In fact in that year, Ellmers was the only Republican to take a seat from an incumbent Democrat in North Carolina.
The professor said he was not convinced that Ellmers will be hurt by her behavior surrounding the pain-capable bill.
“My sense is that 2016 will be about something else. They only way it could hurt her in in an inter-party dispute, which would encourage a primary challenge,” he said.
The fact is nobody knows what the campaign of 2016 will be about, he said.
Aldrich said the abortion issue is a very important in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, located in the central part of the state and includes Fort Bragg, the home of the airborne and special forces.
“More to the point, it is one that her side of the activist extremes care a lot about, very deeply,” he said. “Her district is likely a bit more conservative than the state as a whole, and her activist core base certainly is.”
Ellmers taking on the pro-life movement in Washington comes as the local movement in North Carolina is working to close abortion clinics and restrict the procedure.
“She made it pretty close to her defining issue when she first entered politics, her background as nurse and Catholic made this a genuine concern of hers,” he said. “The prospect of getting criticized from those she was virtually a part of must be difficult for her.”