Washington, D.C. – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sat down with Townhall Monday to discuss some of the highlights of what he calls “one of the most successful Congresses” for the pro-life agenda. While Congress has been unable this year to defund Planned Parenthood, McCarthy still sees plenty of accomplishments on the House side including pro-life language in the tax bill, pro-family initiatives including the adoption tax credit and foster care reform bills, and the signing into law of the Title X Congressional Review Act allowing states to deny Title X funding to Planned Parenthood.
McCarthy acknowledged that the House did not move to defund Planned Parenthood in the most recent Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded, but pointed out that the House did pass the Obamacare repeal and replace bill that would’ve defunded Planned Parenthood. He also noted that the House passed more than a dozen anti-human trafficking bills and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, known as Micah’s Law, which would prohibit abortion at 20 weeks, the point at which science increasingly shows an unborn child feels pain.
McCarthy hasn’t given up on winning over hearts and minds in the Senate on Micah’s Law either.
The law’s new title refers to Micah Pickering who was born prematurely at 22 weeks gestation and survived. The now five-year-old Micah stood alongside McCarthy earlier this year when Republicans announced the legislation. McCarthy thinks this bill should be middle ground in the extremely polarized abortion debate as it would simply limit late-term abortion.
“You look at Micah you know he can live, you know at 20 weeks he can feel pain,” McCarthy emphasized. “I would think that would be a place that Democrats could come and vote for, a unique opportunity and the lives that you could save.”
“You send Micah around a few offices, I think it will change a few hearts and minds,” he added.
McCarthy said that the House has been able to take significant action under the Trump administration including through the Title X CRA overturning an Obama era-rule that would’ve effectively prevented states from defunding abortion providers including Planned Parenthood.
“We’re working with the administration on some of the actions taken in California,” McCarthy added, referencing talks he’s had on a 2014 mandate by the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) requiring insurers to cover elective abortions. The Obama administration had previously rejected claims that the mandate violated the Weldon Amendment, a Bush-era statute, which “forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage.”
“I know they’re working through that as well, looking at that,” McCarthy said. He has previously met with former HHS Secretary Tom Price on the issue.
McCarthy said that Republicans are “about to get victory” on the tax reform bill. Different versions have passed the House and Senate and they are in conference this week to reach a deal on the legislation.
When asked about the provision in the House-passed tax bill, which was removed from the Senate version, allowing parents to start 529 education savings plans for their unborn children, McCarthy said he believes it’s an “important provision” which is being looked at as the House and Senate attempt to reach a deal.
“Nothing shall prevent an unborn child from being treated as a designated beneficiary,” the House bill said. It defined an unborn child as a “child in utero” which “means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”
“I think that was a very good provision,” he explained, because “we acknowledged what life is.” He also cited “the high cost of college,” saying, “the sooner you’re able to save, the more your child will get for college.”
“You can at the end maybe achieve that,” McCarthy said of getting the language into the final tax bill, “you don’t know what comes out of conference, we’re in that process right now.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) called the unborn child language in the provision “dangerous” last month arguing that it could be used to erode abortion access.
“How is it dangerous helping a family send a child to college?” McCarthy wondered in response to that comment.
In regards to the federal investigation into Planned Parenthood over alleged illegal trafficking in fetal tissue, McCarthy believes the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives did a good job in raising attention to the issue and getting “a lot of facts out there.” While McCarthy did not comment on whether or not the House has been contacted by the FBI or DOJ, both agencies have reportedly contacted the Senate Judiciary Committee for unredacted documents from their investigation into the matter.
McCarthy also addressed a CBS News report which cited high rates of abortion for unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome in the U.S. and globally, with a near 100 percent rate in Iceland.
He called the numbers “appalling” and spoke about one of his “dearest friends Chloe” who has the condition and “is one of the most loving individuals you would ever meet.”
“The contribution she makes,” he said, “she just introduced me the other day at a rally and how she introduces me is ‘my Kevin.’”
According to McCarthy, the GOP’s policy agenda fits with the upcoming March for Life’s theme of “Love Saves Lives” which focuses on pro-life pregnancy centers that financially and emotionally support pregnant women so they can consider other options aside from abortion.
“You look at the tax code,” he said, “being more pro-family, increasing the standard deduction helping people keep more of what they earn, from that standpoint being able to care for their children, the child tax credit…those are all extremely helpful from that process.”
He added that legislatively he considers the March for Life rally to be “one of the strong points of the year.”
“I’ve always loved it when it would fall on the days we are in session so we got participation,” he said, “you have thousands of people coming around the country here we can really focus on different parts of legislation that we think are key to make sure that we’re protecting life.”
“That’s normally when we push legislation too,” he said, adding he’s “hopeful that we can push the Senate, having a lot of people here talking about that as well.”
When asked about why he personally is pro-life, McCarthy said some of it comes from the wonders of being a parent himself.
“Well it’s kind of been where I’ve been my whole life,” he said, “but more importantly you become a parent, you see the creation of life, just through the pregnancy you watch, watching your child roll, kick and you spend time with Micah, 20 weeks old, the size of an M&M wrapper, five-years-old today and no one can tell a difference.”
“The opportunity that you think that people could miss out on and so many people when I walk in they tell a story,” he said, “maybe their parents couldn’t raise them maybe they were adopted and what they achieve and think what the world would’ve missed out on your contribution. I mean life is so precious to all, we’re going to pick and choose what God creates?”
McCarthy’s pro-life stance seems very influenced by interactions with children like Micah Pickering and Chloe who are a living testament that a child at 22 weeks gestation can live outside the womb and that a diagnosis of Down syndrome isn’t a death sentence.
“I believe in opportunity for all,” he concluded, “and I just think it’s, to me, it’s a very beautiful thing to watch these children be able to grow.”
Pro-life advocates are excited for some of the gains made this year legislatively by McCarthy and the House but eagerly await the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the passage of the 20-week abortion ban into law.
“While the March for Life is appreciative of the pro-life strides made in the 2017 House of Representatives, we only wish the Senate had followed the House’s lead in this regard,” Tom McClusky, Vice President of Government Affairs with March for Life, commented to Townhall.
“We were heartened to see a Congressional Review Act passed to free states of funding Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider,” he added, “yet other initiatives like passing the 5 Month Pain Capable Act, 12 appropriations bills with pro-life provisions, the national defunding of Planned Parenthood, a pro-life healthcare system, and the first ever recognition of the unborn in the U.S. tax code all died in the Senate. In 2018, we hope to see both chambers follow through on their promise to include pro-life protections in healthcare, defund the abortion industry, and ensure conscience protections are included in end of year spending bills.”
Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said that the House “advanced several critical pro-life initiatives in this last year,” including “the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, the CRA to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood of Title X funding, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and an Obamacare repeal bill that included pro-life Hyde protections and would have defunded Planned Parenthood.”
“While we were thrilled to see these measures pass the House, we were greatly disappointed that the GOP Congress as a whole could not move forward on most of these issues,” she added, “especially on the repeal of Obamacare and defunding of Planned Parenthood. Clearly, we came very close, falling short by just one vote in the Senate.”
“It is urgent that the House continue passing pro-life measures and then urging the Senate to put them on President Trump’s desk,” Quigley said. “Heading into an election year the pro-life base has to rally and there could be no better way to ensure pro-life voters are fired up than by passing a reconciliation bill that includes defunding Planned Parenthood. The CRA vote earlier this year proved that it is possible to strike a blow to Planned Parenthood using reconciliation.”