House GOP Flinches From Passing 20-Week Abortion Ban It Passed Last Congress

by Joel Gehrke

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) met Wednesday evening with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and other Republican women to ameliorate a last-minute revolt against a 20-week abortion ban that passed the last Congress with overwhelming GOP support.

He couldn’t convince the lawmakers, so, House GOP leadership is canceling a vote that was scheduled to coincide with the March for Life and the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

“I’m honestly stunned — what a complete and utter debacle,” says one Republican lawmaker who supports the legislation. The sticking point: “reporting requirements,” as they’re known on the Hill. In short, the bill bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — when the in utero infant can feel pain — except in cases of rape, incest, or for the life of the mother. But to benefit from the rape and incest exception, the victim has to report the crime to law enforcement.

President Obama criticized that provision as “demonstrating a complete disregard for the women who experience sexual assault and the barriers they may face in reporting,” such as fear of retaliation from their attackers.  “Research indicates that the majority of survivors have not reported their sexual assaults to law enforcement,” his statement of administration policy says.

That line of attack worries some Republicans. “There seems to be a fear of Dem attack ads, which is odd for an issue that is 2:1 in our favor,” the GOP lawmaker says.

It’s especially odd given that some of the Republican women who oppose these reporting requirements voted for them when the bill passed the House last Congress.

Signs of trouble for the bill emerged last week at the GOP retreat in Hershey, Penn., when Representative Renee Ellmers (R., N.C.) argued that Republicans should hold off on passing the bill due to concern that millennial voters would dislike the bill. That argument didn’t seem to gain much traction in the conference meeting, though, as other legislators argued that younger voters are more supportive of the bill than older demographics.

House Republicans will instead vote on a bill banning taxpayer funding of abortion, but that’s a consolation prize for pro-life activists who have descended on the city for the March for Life.

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