By Elise Viebeck - 06/18/13 05:38 PM EDT
A leader of the House Pro-Choice Caucus suggested Tuesday that Republicans don't have strong feelings against rape.
The remark came as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) criticized the GOP's proposed ban on late-term abortions ahead of a House vote on the measure.
Slaughter slammed Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, all men, who rejected a rape exception to the bill during its markup last week.
Slaughter alluded to controversies on rape and abortion that dogged the GOP in 2012, such as former Senate candidate Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) remark that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely become pregnant.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill's sponsor, also came under fire from Democrats last week when he said that the "incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy [is] very low."
The House is preparing to vote on the late-term abortion ban, which would punish doctors who terminate pregnancies after 22 weeks.
The version approved by the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday only allowed exceptions for women whose lives are in danger.
Additional protections for some rape and incest victims were quietly added by the Rules Committee last week at the behest of GOP leadership.
If passed, the legislation would be the strongest congressional move against abortion rights in a decade.
GOP members of the Judiciary Committee shot down the proposed rape exception during markup because it did not include a requirement that women report the crimes against them.
The bill's new language outlines rape and incest exceptions to the abortion ban as long as the crimes are reported.
Supporters argue that the 22-week ban is necessary because fetuses can feel pain at that stage of development. This contention is disputed among scientists.
Abortion-rights opponents also connect the Franks bill to outcry over the grisly murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was recently convicted of killing several infants born alive after failed terminations.
Most Republicans argue that there is no moral difference between a late-term abortion and an infant's murder.
"This bill is the most significant piece of pro-life legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2007," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, in a statement Tuesday.
"Any lawmaker who votes to allow unlimited abortion in the sixth month or later is voting to encourage a continuation of the horrors associated with the likes of Kermit Gosnell," Johnson said.