House Republican leadership is planning to move forward with a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, despite opposition from female lawmakers who fear the legislation is too harsh and could turn off young voters. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would exempt rape victims from the abortion restrictions, but only if they report the attack to police -- a clause multiple GOP staffers said could further discourage victims of sexual assault from seeking medical help.
It hasn't exactly been subtle. Congressional Republicans, thrilled to be in the majority in both chamber, have tried to get this Congress off to the most far-right start possible. It's included aggressive pushes on gutting health care, weakening Wall Street safeguards, and making Social Security susceptible to important cuts.
But just two weeks into the session, Republicans also haven't forgotten about the culture war.
As the Politico report noted, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), a former nurse and an opponent of abortion rights, urged GOP leaders to alter the legislation -- a point she emphasized to her GOP colleagues at the party's retreat last week. Party leaders nevertheless refused, prompting Ellmers and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) to withdraw their support from the bill.
The result is a rare sight: a controversial culture war bill that's not only dividing Republicans against Democrats, but also Republicans against Republicans.
The vote on the bill is expected tomorrow, timed by GOP leaders specifically to coincide with the annual March for Life, held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.
Despite Ellmers' concerns, the bill is likely to pass in the Republican-dominated House, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has spent months trying to rally support for the same bill in the Senate.
If it passes, President Obama has already vowed to veto the bill.
"[T]he provision that requires rape and incest survivors to report the crime to a law enforcement agency or child welfare authority in order to have access to an abortion after the 20-week mark demonstrates a complete disregard for the women who experience sexual assault and the barriers they may face in reporting," the White House said yesterday. "Research indicates that the majority of survivors have not reported their sexual assaults to law enforcement."
Taking this one step further, as regular readers may recall, the underlying idea is itself deeply problematic -- with or without the provision Ellmers has highlighted. Because roughly 99% of abortions occur before the 21st week of a pregnancy, these later terminations often involve "rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman's health." It's why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is so strongly against proposals like the one the U.S. House will probably pass tomorrow.