Sixteen House Republicans delivered impassioned floor speeches Wednesday evening promoting a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy - a number that included only one woman.
GOP leadership originally scheduled the vote to coincide with the annual March for Life on Thursday, when thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators will descend upon the National Mall. But after facing a high number of defections from GOP women and centrists, the House will instead vote on legislation prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, which largely codifies current law.
At issue among Republicans in the original bill was language only allowing exceptions for rape if the victim reported it to police. The Justice Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of rapes go unreported.
Despite the swirling controversy, the series of floor speeches about the initial measure after the last votes of the day overwhelmingly featured white men. Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerConservative women's group endorses Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas governor FOSTA is model for reforming Section 230 Navy admiral criticizes defense contractors over lobbying efforts MORE (R-Mo.) was the only woman to join her 15 other colleagues on the House floor Wednesday evening for what are known as "special order" speeches.
Wagner recalled first participating in the March for Life in 1990, when she was 28 years old and 12 weeks pregnant with her son.
"While killing an unborn child is unconscionable at any time, it is especially abhorrent at the 20-week mark, when a child is able to feel the pain of an abortion," Wagner said.
The other Republicans were Reps. Chris Smith (N.J.), Tim Walberg (Mich.), Marlin Stutzman (Ind.), Chris Stewart (Utah), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Keith Rothfus (Pa.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Bill Huizenga (Mich.), Bob Latta (Ohio), John Mica (Fla.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.) and Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems MORE (Ariz.).
Franks, the original 20-week bill's sponsor, delivered a speech separate from the others. He said in an emotional floor speech that the vote would be one of the most memorable.
"It will be a vote that every one of us will always remember and for which we shall be held accountable," Franks said. "What we are doing to these babies is real. And all of us here know that in our hearts."
Yoho, who recently waged a long-shot bid for Speaker, argued that laws protecting endangered species suggested a priority over unborn babies.
"How can we as a nation have laws that protect the sea turtle or bald eagle, but yet refuse to protect the same of our own species?" Yoho asked. "Future generations will look back and judge us."
Franks sponsored a similar version of the bill in 2013 that also encountered gender politics. After Franks suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are "very low," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was assigned to manage floor debate in his place.
- This story was updated at 10:27 p.m.