House GOP pulls abortion bill after revolt
House Republicans pulled back an anti-abortion bill slated for a Thursday vote following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape.
The House was originally scheduled to vote on a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy that only allowed exceptions in the case of reported rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger.
The chamber will now vote Thursday on an alternative bill that would permanently ban the use of federal funds for abortion. The vote is scheduled to coincide with the annual March for Life, when thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators will descend upon the National Mall to protest the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
The revolt against the original abortion bill came after some Republican women, including Reps. Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (Ind.), threatened to vote against it due to the language only allowing exceptions for rape if the victim reports the crime to police. The Justice Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of rapes go unreported, oftentimes due to victims’ fear of retribution.
Moreover, GOP centrists were inclined to vote against the measure due to concerns over how it would play in their districts, and the bill appeared to be in trouble.
Members of the House Rules Committee met late Wednesday night in an emergency meeting to put forward an entirely different abortion bill from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) that prohibits federal funds for abortions, including in health benefits coverage. A similar bill passed in the House in 2014 by a vote of 227-188.
Current law restricts the use of federal funds toward abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is threatened.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said the change in plans came after a “day of discussions with members.”
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) blamed a “meltdown” within the GOP resulting in a last-minute meeting.
“So now it’s 9:05 in the evening; we’re tossing the first bill out the window and replacing it with a completely unrelated abortion bill,” McGovern said.
But Smith insisted the legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks “is only delayed.”
“I can assure you it will be back up,” Smith said.
Democrats argued that the legislation would do more than codify current law. The bill would prevent women receiving federal tax credits toward their insurance, as well as plans through the healthcare law’s exchanges, from getting coverage for abortion services.
The Family Research Council, an anti-abortion group, expressed disappointment that House Republicans had to pull the original measure banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“While we are disappointed that a handful of members caused a delay in the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act, we applaud the leadership for remaining committed to advancing pro-life legislation,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “It is time that Congress put an end to this barbaric horror.”
— Story was updated at 10:20 p.m.
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