“Thank God for the men who stood up today to speak for women and against violence against women.”
When Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spoke those words on the House floor, anyone who hadn’t been watching the whole show might have thought she was praising colleagues after a vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Instead, she was talking about the Gosnell trial.
Still convinced that there is a “media blackout” that needs to be exposed, a handful of Republican Congressmen (and one Republican Congresswoman) took to the floor to give one-minute speeches on the ongoing trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Pennsylvania doctor accused of murder. By extension, they could then discuss the horrors of abortion and the need to “speak for the unborn” and protect women from harm.
When it comes to keeping Gosnell in the news, there’s little doubt that GOP leadership is providing the marching orders. On April 12, Heritage Foundation President and former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint published a blog post not about immigration, as several of his prior posts covered, or about small government, the focus of his think tank. Instead, it was about the Gosnell trial. Echoing a cry on the right that the media was purposefully hiding the story from the public, DeMint urged readers to ensure the end of the “blackout” and told them to “take to social media—take to whatever outlet at your disposal—to call attention to these horrific crimes and stand up for those who couldn’t defend themselves.”
DeMint’s call came at the beginning of what quickly became a coordinated effort, especially on Twitter, to push the narrative that the Gosnell trial was being ignored and that Gosnell’s practice was indicative of all abortion providers, rather than a place of criminal activity and a symptom of the lack of affordable, accessible health-care options.
Today’s action on the Congressional floor marks a continuation of the quest for media attention. Indiana Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman announced Wednesday that he and fellow Representatives were planning to make floor speeches after the days votes were completed in the hopes of garnering new coverage for the Gosnell trial. His plans were quickly scuttled, and the speeches were moved to the following afternoon.
Stutzman is a young, two-term Congressman with a background as a Baptist missionary and a vision that “one day, we will reverse Roe v. Wade and reform a culture that has cheapened human life.” As such, he’s the perfect mouthpiece for the anti-choice movement. And as a “Congressional Sentinel” dubbed “the tip of the spear in Washington” who is “vigilantly protecting our freedoms” by Heritage Action, the Heritage Institute’s action arm, his eagerness to take on DeMint’s call to use “any outlet at your disposal” would be undisputed.
This wasn’t Stutzman, or many of the other participants’, first time on the floor discussing this topic; on April 11 he joined a group of Republican Congress members in speaking against Gosnell and the “horrors” of abortion. After comparing Gosnell’s clinic to “Auschwitz’s ovens” and “Cambodia’s killing fields,” Stutzman declared, “We ought to take a look at our culture’s careless disregard for this story in particular, and for innocent life in general. … Has our national conscience been irreversibly seared by the deaths of over 1.2 million unborn children every year in this country? Mr. Speaker, I am confident that one day the era of abortion on demand will close and we will restore a lasting respect for life.”
Stutzman was joined on the floor by a number of Congressmen. Some, like New Jersey Republican Chris Smith or Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, had already made speeches with Stutzman back on the 11th. Others were new recruits, anxious to use the Gosnell trial to explain efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood or pass a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
There were many references to the indisputable fact that Gosnell’s activities were criminal, something on which both sides of the abortion rights argument can agree. But then the speeches morphed into a tirade against abortion care per se and a chorus of claims about “defending women” from violence.
“The mainstream media has all but gone silent, and failed to cover this horrific violence against women,” Bachmann said on the floor. “No one, Democrat or Republican, believes in violence against women. We abhor it. But there’s nothing that has come close to what has happened in this abortion clinic in Pennsylvania … and it appears that it has been ignored across the nation. Well we won’t. And I thank God for the men who have stood up here today to stand for women, and against violence and against violence against women.”
The men Bachmann praised (although two other Congresswomen spoke on the floor, both appear to have spoken before the official floor event occurred) may have found their voice when it comes to violence against women in this particular circumstance. Sadly, they weren’t nearly as eager to address violence against women in February. Of the 18 House members speaking out on Gosnell, only two—Indiana Rep. Todd Roika and Florida Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen—actually voted to reauthorize the act.