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KIRON, Iowa (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. House of Representatives' leading pro-life legislator is calling out National Right to Life (NRTL), asserting the advocacy group played a key role in his June 2 primary defeat.
In an exclusive interview with Church Militant, Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, acknowledges that a number of factors contributed to his ballot box loss, but none, he says, is more disappointing than NRTL's endorsement of his opponent.
"I do not believe there will be an end to Roe v. Wade until National Right to Life is a defunct organization," King, who has helped draft heartbeat legislation, tells Church Militant. Heartbeat legislation would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
In Iowa's recent primary election, King lost to state Senator Randy Feenstra. National Right to Life endorsed Feenstra, who has a clean voting record on abortion but near-zero activism.
For example, when Iowa's version of the heartbeat bill was being debated and ultimately was passed, Feenstra was nowhere to be found. He didn't vote against it, but he didn't actively support it. King admits that Feenstra put forward a personhood bill, but it had no co-sponsors, making it more symbolic than viable. "Personhood" legislation seeks to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as "persons," granting them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
King explains that on the national level, Republican leaders in the House and Senate will not put forward any pro-life legislation unless it is approved by what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., calls "The holy trinity": The Family Research Council, The Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life.
In the case of King's heartbeat legislation, National Right to Life exercised its veto power and killed any hope of passage at the national level, when the votes were there to pass without exception.
King reflects on his negotiations with NRTL, specifically, his discussions with the organization's powerful legal counsel, Jim Bopp: "There was no scenario for the heartbeat bill to which he would agree."
In King's view, the 52-year-old organization and its leaders have entered their dotage. "Most of them are old and have been around long enough. You'd think they would be ashamed at how little they've accomplished," he said.
He called the leaders "posers" seeking only, at this point in their careers, to perpetuate their jobs and their organizations. King said they are committed to "incrementalism" —never proposing any legislation that would end up overturning Roe v. Wade — because "they want to keep their organizations viable, to keep up the fundraising."
When the heartbeat bill stalled, King thought, "I can take on Republican leaders or National Right to Life." He chose National Right to Life.
King knows having NRTL's endorsement probably would not have been enough to ensure a primary win. His remarks aren't sour grapes, he points out, as he has been speaking out against the organization for some time.
For people who are wondering about his future, King, a faithful Catholic, says, "God has set up a transition in my life. There will be another calling, I just don't know what it is yet. I am not troubled in my soul."
Another outspoken opponent of NRTL is Janet Porter, author of A Heartbeat Away: How the Heartbeat Bill Will Pierce the Heart of Roe v. Wade and the Shocking Betrayal No One Saw Coming. Porter is a former Ohio Right to Life legislative director and founder of Faith2Action. Working alongside King, Porter spent hours in statehouses across the nation lobbying for the heartbeat bill. The "shocking betrayal" to which her book's title refers involves National Right to Life.
In her chapter entitled "The Enemy Within," Porter details the duplicity of the organization. She writes: "Guess which group has worked the hardest against the heartbeat bills? If you guessed Planned Parenthood, NARAL or the pro-abortion Democrats you'd be wrong." Then she drops the bomb: "You wouldn’t expect it. Most wouldn't believe it, but the biggest obstacle to passing heartbeat bills across the nation is National Right to Life and many of their state affiliates."
For readers who enjoy political tell-all books, A Heartbeat Away names every possible name. She warns potential Right to Life opponents to expect three lines of attack from their organization: 1. They mock you. 2. They fight you. 3. They take credit for what you've done.
According to Porter, no one knows that better than heartbeat bill sponsor Rep. Candice Keller, R-Ohio. Keller outed Ohio Right to Life's opposition to the Ohio heartbeat bill and predicted they would try to take credit for the legislation when it passed. For her trouble, Ohio Right to Life refused to endorse her candidacy, making it possible for her opponent to include in her mailers the fact that "Ohio Right to Life REFUSED to endorse her [Keller]."
Church Militant has reported on similar problems with the Missouri Right to Life affiliate.
National Right to Life and Iowa Right to Life were contacted multiple times for comment on this story but as of press time, neither organization had responded.