Abortion bill advances in House after emotional debate

The bill bans abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, a timeframe that Republicans say is based on evidence that a fetus can feel pain at about that stage of a pregnancy.

As expected, Democrats were outraged by the bill and said it is the latest Republican attempt to limit abortion. Several noted that the bill was approved by the all-male House Judiciary Committee, and the issue of abortion should not be left for just men to decide.

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"Twenty two, 23, all white guys deciding, turning down every amendment to try to preserve women's health, to try to preserve women's psyche," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said during debate. "In statehouses all over this country, in governments, mansions and halls of Congress, the majority's anti-choice agenda is driven by men in blue suits and red ties who seem to believe that once they get elected to something they have the right to play doctor."

"We once again see men taking leadership roles in invading the privacy of medical decisions of women so that now we have before us that is borne of ignorance and disregard for medical science in every way, shape and form," added Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).

Democrats also mocked Republicans for letting Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) manage the debate on the bill Tuesday, since she does not sit on the committee of jurisdiction. Slaughter said letting Blackburn manage the bill shows the GOP is desperate to shift attention away from the role men played in writing it.

"If that's not a first, I don't know what is, and if that is not PR I don't know what is," Slaughter said. "Such a cowardly move is an insult to the intelligence of women across America."

Democrats added that the bill is "blatantly unconstitutional" by saying it would chip away at the Supreme Court precedent that roughly allows for the abortion of fetuses up to 24 weeks old.

Republicans said the bill is driven by new science that shows a fetus can feel pain at an earlier age, as well as gruesome details about the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering unborn children in late-term abortions in violation of state law.

"There are Kermit Gosnells … all over America today, inflicting not only violence, cruelty and death on very young children, but excruciating pain as well," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) and other Republicans criticized Democrats for failing to acknowledge that fetuses feel any pain, and for failing to balance that with the right to have an abortion.

"Our friends on the other side of the aisle, when it comes to animals, they're all about the Humane Society and the humane treatment of animals, and I have high regard for that," Fleming said. "When it comes to the issue of torture or even discomfort for prisoners of war, they're all about supporting that.

"But what happens in a mid-term or later pregnancy when there's an abortion? What happens is just absolute torture."

On the constitutional issue, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said the Supreme Court has said Congress has the right to find ways to protect life. She also held back tears as she closed the debate on the rule and asked her colleagues to support the bill.

"May we in humility confront this national sin and may we mourn what abortion reveals about the conscience of our nation," Foxx said. "However, there are many who do not hold the unborn in the same esteem, and that is tragic."

The rule allows an hour of debate on the bill, which will get a final vote later in the day.

Before that vote, members were expected to debate H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act. The rule covering the abortion bill also allows for an hour of debate on the farm bill.

Consideration of amendments to the farm bill will be covered by a separate rule that the House Rules Committee will approve today.

Immediately after the rule vote, the House voted 424-0 in favor of H.R. 1151, a bill directing the Secretary of State to develop a plan for ensuring that Taiwan has observer status at the Civil Aviation Organization.