Anti-abortion groups demand House vote on 20-week legislation

Anti-abortion groups demand House vote on 20-week legislation
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A coalition of anti-abortion-rights advocates is pressuring House leadership to reschedule a vote on a controversial bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.  

“The babies and mothers being targeted by the late-term abortion industry have waited long enough for protection. We call on the House GOP to schedule an immediate vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” the groups wrote in a letter to House GOP leadership Wednesday.

The coalition, which includes the Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council, has criticized House leaders for canceling a planned vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in January.

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The groups’ message also included a warning to House Republicans during the next election cycle.

“A vote on this popular, modest bill will serve as a benchmark as to whether the House GOP is serious about protecting unborn babies and women,” the letter reads, adding the Senate stands ready to vote.

The issue is already lighting up the 2016 race: Fourteen declared and potential GOP presidential candidates have said they would support the legislation, according to the Susan B. Anthony List.

Their letter arrived exactly three months after the bill’s scheduled vote, which would have also coincided with the national March for Life and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The House bill had broad support until a small group of GOP moderates, which included several women, raised concerns about a provision that would require rape victims to report to the police. GOP leaders pulled the bill from the floor, but promised the legislation would be coming back.

Momentum for the legislation has surged in recent weeks and one top House Republican, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), said Wednesday that he expects Congress to reconsider the legislation "relatively soon," following debates on Iran and the budget.

Cole, a deputy majority whip in the House, said the bill’s authors have found language to satisfy Republicans such as Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) who had previously opposed the legislation.

“I’m told that the language they’re considering seems to be receiving widespread approval,” Cole said.

Since the canceled House vote, several states, including West Virginia, have advanced bills to ban late-term abortions. The 20-week ban is currently in effect in 10 states.

Abortion-rights advocates have argued that 20-week bans are unconstitutional because they would violate rights established under Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood also argues that nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks.

— This story was updated at 3:07 p.m.