Senate GOP fails in callous attempt to send doctors to prison


The country is facing a number of problems, but passing a law to put doctors in jail for providing health care to women is not actually one of them.

The country is in the midst of a constitutional crisis, the deadline to avoid another government shutdown is just over a week away, and nearly one million young immigrants are facing imminent deportation.

But the Republican Senate isn't focused on any of that. Instead, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided his priority was a bill that sends doctors to prison for performing abortions.

The bill, sponsored by South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, criminalizes abortions after 20 weeks and penalizes doctors who perform the procedure with a fine, up to five years in prison — or both.

On Monday night, the bill — a version of which Republicans have been fighting to pass in the House and Senate for years — failed again, when McConnell and Graham could not garner enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

"It is shameful that Mitch McConnell thinks it’s more important to attack women’s health than to fund the federal government, " Dana Singiser, vice president for Government Relations and Public Policy at Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. "If the last few months have shown us anything, it’s that Americans want policymakers working to improve health care access and rights for women, not take them away."

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, also slammed the GOP's priorities.

“The fact that the anti-choice GOP would waste time and taxpayer money on an unconstitutional abortion ban shows that their obsession with controlling women’s bodies and lives knows no limits," Hogue said in a statement. "With Congress unsure of a path forward to keep the government open beyond February 8, the Russia investigation, and so much more, their focus on this bill reveals their true priorities: to punish women, ban abortion, and try to score an ideological win to appeal to their fringe base."

The recent shutdown over government funding only ended because McConnell promised a vote on a bill to protect the 800,000 DREAMers who will be facing deportation in March unless Congress comes up with a solution to protect them.

But that vote isn't on the calendar yet. Instead, McConnell rushed forward with a vote to ban abortions for women whose health or lives are at risk. It's a ban most Americans oppose, and it certainly does nothing to address the immediate problems our nation faces.

One of those problems is the all-out war on federal law enforcement that Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are waging, a war that got uglier Monday afternoon when FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe suddenly resigned after immense public pressure from Trump and his party.

It's the kind of obstruction Graham has said he wants to stop. In fact, Graham warned last year that if Trump were to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, it could be "the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency." It was the reason, Graham said, he wanted Congress to vote on a bill to protect investigations into Trump, his campaign, and his White House.

But on Monday, Graham had nothing to say about McCabe's sudden ouster or the news that broke last week that Trump had, in fact, tried to fire Mueller last June.

Instead, he was focused on his anti-health bill and vowed to continue pushing for it.

"I have not given up this fight," he said, adding, "I intend to keep pushing for this legislation" and thanking McConnell for bringing the bill to a vote. "If Republicans did not have the Majority it would never have happened."

That Republican majority has not bothered to take up any of the issues Americans do care about. In fact, most Republicans have been largely silent on the growing crisis of a lawless president intent on obstructing investigations into his apparent lawlessness.

Regardless of the rhetoric of Graham and some of his Republican colleagues who have at least paid lip service to concerns about Trump, the real priorities of the Republican majority are clear, and sadly, they have nothing to do with protecting American citizens or our democracy.