WATCH: Congressman Accuses Star Parker of ‘Ignorance’ in Tense Hearing on Pro-Life Bill
Emotions run high at the Congressional hearing on the latest proposed pro-life bill, as a Democratic Congressman shouts down an expert witness.
On Wednesday, in a hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee, Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., accused expert witness Star Parker of “ignorance” on the issues.
His remarks sparked a shouting match, as other members asked him to apologize. Due to the lack of decorum, the chairman abruptly ended the hearing. The incident comes only days after Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., called White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “dumb as a rock” in a tweet.
The Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice invited four expert witnesses to comment on the Heartbeat Protection Act. The bill would ban most abortions after a heartbeat is detected, usually at six to 10 weeks fetal development.
Congressman Charges Policy Expert With “Ignorance”
The heated exchange came late in the hearing, after Star Parker answered a question from chairman Steve King, R-Iowa.
“When it comes to mixing the abortion issue with the challenges we face in many of our hard-hit communities, I feel it is disingenuous that the issue of Medicaid would come up,” she said.
Parker heads up the Center for Urban Renewal (CURE), founded in 1995. She has authored four books on renewing families and cities.
Citing statistics, she spoke on the societal effects of abortion among minorities. Parker stated that abortion is the leading cause of death in communities of color. Rep. Steve Cohen, age 68, shot back at the black woman addressing the committee.
“I am not disingenuous about anything I say about Medicaid, or Medicare, or LIHEAP, or SNAP programs,” said Cohen. He referred to four government programs offering health care benefits and other subsidies.
Cohen continued, his voice rising with anger. “To suggest I’m disingenuous shows your ignorance or your absolute inability to deal with congresspeople [sic] the way they should. I believe in those issues and I think they’re proper. To say I’m disingenuous is just wrong and I expect an apology,” he said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, addressed Cohen. “I would ask for an apology from the gentleman from Tennessee, calling our witness ‘ignorant’ when it seems to me she has a whole lot more knowledge and wisdom …” Cohen cut him off. “She’s ignorant about me!” he shouted.
Chairman King called a truce on the shouting match. “You’re both out of order,” he said. “Given the lack of civility before this committee, this concludes today’s hearing. Thanks to all of our witnesses for attending.”
National Debate Persists Over Life-or-Death Issue
Hearings on abortion-related legislation often reflect national tensions on the issue. The one pro-life bill passed by the Senate this year required Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie vote. That law enables states to redirect funds from Planned Parenthood to local women’s health clinics.
While passion animates the abortion debate in American culture, there’s also some consensus. In a recent Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans expressed support for at least some restrictions on abortion — including 18 percent who think abortion should be illegal in all cases.
These figures align with recent public opinion research on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed the House on October 3. Polling found 64 percent of Americans support the bill, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks fetal development. The bill currently awaits a vote in the Senate.
As to Wednesday’s hearing, pro-life advocates in the room could not recall a time when a Congressman’s outburst ended a hearing. “The House is rowdy, but I’ve never seen something like that,” said Matt Lockett of Bound4LIFE International, who was in the room with several of his team.
Abortion Activist Calls Grisly Procedure “Humane”
Another heated moment came when Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., quoted to Priscilla Smith of Yale Law School her own words.
Franks referred back to a September 2015 hearing, when Priscilla Smith addressed the same committee. “I believe for a pre-viable fetus that a D&E procedure is a very humane procedure,” she said. Franks described how a developing human’s body parts are dismembered in the procedure.
“Ms. Smith, is it still your opinion that a D&E abortion is ‘humane’?” he asked. She avoided the question, then answered, “Yes, it is absolutely humane.” Kathi Aultman, M.D., followed her with a different take. “It is one of the most inhumane procedures I can imagine,” she said.
The two sides were well represented, as Smith was joined by Professor David Forte of Cleveland State University to voice views in favor of expanded abortion rights. Meanwhile, Aultman and Parker spoke from their experience on why limiting abortion would benefit society.
“Since Roe v. Wade was legalized, twenty million humans have been killed inside the wombs of black women,” said Parker. “Then on Halloween, Planned Parenthood tweeted out that black women are safest if they abort their child rather than bring it to term.”
If you're a Black woman in America, it's statistically safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth #ScaryStats
— PP Black Community (@PPBlackComm) October 31, 2017
Parker called out Planned Parenthood as targeting women in “our most distressed zip codes.” She also linked the rise of abortion with declining marriage rates.
“The needs of those most vulnerable in society cannot be addressed with abortion,” she said. “In the fifties, 70 percent of black adults were married. Today, that number is 30 percent. This is causing a lot more social pathologies that need to be addressed.”
Will the Senate Keep Pro-Life Momentum Going?
Pro-life leaders recognize a federal Heartbeat bill may not presently be a viable political effort. Most current advocacy is focused on the bill stalled in the Senate.
“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is the next great milestone America will welcome and wholeheartedly embrace,” said Lockett. He noted he is nonetheless thankful for “pro-life champion” Rep. Franks building support for the more-stringent Heartbeat bill.
Lockett observes that momentum is not on the abortion lobby’s side. “The judicial landscape is changing, and abortion advocates are worried,” he added. ”While adversaries of all pro-life legislation are quick to point to Roe v. Wade over and over, they seem to be noticeably alarmed that it may not always be the law of the land.”
Watch the full hearing on the Heartbeat Protection Act, including comments that sparked an outburst beginning at 1:29:00 mark.