Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania was one of only six Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted Tuesday night against a bill restricting post-viability abortions (six Democrats voted for the bill). Dent was also the only Republican to publicly criticize House leadership for bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. "The stupidity is simply staggering," Dent told CQ Roll Call last week.
Dent's colleagues introduced the bill in response to the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, whose abortion clinic was located about an hour from Dent's district. Supporters of the bill argue there isn't much difference between the Gosnell killings and legal late-term abortions. When asked last Thursday to explain the logical difference between the two, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi couldn't answer the question.
When asked the same question Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol by THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Rep. Charlie Dent was similarly unable to identify a significant difference between late-term abortions and the Gosnell killings:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What are the differences between what that doctor did and what this bill intends to stop?
DENT: Well, my argument on the, ah--well, first we all condemned Gosnell. This guy committed heinous crimes. He's a murderer. He committed infanticide, manslaughter. I mean he's just an awful human being. That having been said, I think this is really a states' rights issue. If we're going to implement these types of restrictions they ought to be dealt at at a state level. My state, Pennsylvania, has more restrictions on abortions than most states. And the standard there is 24 weeks.
Dent then failed to answer the question a second time:
TWS: With advances in science, you know, a 23-week baby that was born in Gosnell's clinic--had that been performed prior to birth that would have been completely legal. But now those babies can survive. So what's the difference between a 23-week abortion and the killing-after-birth, as with Gosnell?
DENT: My whole point here is this: That these types of restrictions ought to be dealt with at the state level.
TWS: And why is that?
DENT: It's an issue of federalism.
TWS: If the states aren't protecting a life, doesn't the 14th amendment say that you have--
DENT: I think this is most appropriately a state issue.
TWS: So the 14th amendment doesn't extend protections to viable babies?
DENT: I'm just saying this is clearly a state issue in my view, and that's where it should be dealt with.
Dent asked to speak off the record, and when we went back on the record he described his position on abortion. "I support the partial-birth abortion ban, I oppose federal funding for abortion consistent with Hyde amendment. I support parental notification. I support the sex-selection abortion ban," he said.
Why does Dent support the federal partial-birth abortion ban, but not a federal late-term restriction?
"That dealt with a procedure and that's constitutional," he said.
Asked if he'd like to see abortions restricted at 23 weeks in his home state of Pennsylvania, Dent said he didn't have an opinion. "Pennsylvania's at 24 [weeks]," he said. "It's up to the state legislature."