WASHINGTON – House Republicans have hastily shelved plans to vote Thursday on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, after a revolt within their ranks led by female members. They objected to a provision that required rape victims to report to law enforcement before they qualified for an exception under the bill.
Instead, the House is set to vote on HR7, the so-called No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act, which attacks private insurance coverage of the procedure. (Medicaid and other public funding for abortion is already banned except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.)
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For days, reports had surfaced that female Republicans were furious about the measure, despite the fact that several of them had voted for the same language in 2013. The so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was unlikely to pass in the Senate and faced a certain veto from President Obama. But the vote was timed to galvanize the hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion activists expected Thursday on the National Mall to protest the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
A senior GOP leadership aide told NBC News late Wednesday that top Republicans still intended to bring the bill back up for a vote later this year. “Our conference needs a little more time,” the aide said.
The Washington Post reported that female members were seen meeting with leadership Wednesday afternoon, and noted, “In a caucus dominated by men, a meeting with top leaders requested and attended almost exclusively by women is a rare sight.” But many of the women spotted there, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, are in swing districts and may fear the 2016 electoral climate after such a vote. Ellmers’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to why she voted for the same language in 2013.
The GOP’s move quickly infuriated social conservatives. Prominent anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek tweeted that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy canceled on a meeting with activists, and other activists said they felt betrayed or talked of primaries.
Pro-choice organizations couldn’t hide their glee. “I never thought I would see the day that the Tea Party-led House of Representatives would wake up to the fact that their priorities—outright abortion bans–are way out of touch with the American people. The GOP drafted a bill so extreme and so out of touch with the voters that even their own membership could not support,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue. And Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said, “These attacks are so dangerous, extreme, and unpopular that House Republicans can’t even get their membership lined up behind them.”