Politics & Policy

Differences Resolved, House GOP Prepares to Reintroduce Pain-Capable Abortion Ban Next Week

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash) (Alex Wong/Getty)

House Republicans will vote next week to ban most abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, ending an intraparty debate that drove a wedge between the GOP and its pro-life base when party leadership had to cancel a vote on the bill the night before the March for Life in January.

“Life is precious and we must do everything we can to fight for it and protect it,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told The Weekly Standard on Friday. “Our commitment for the House to consider this important legislation has been steadfast and I am proud of the work of our members to prepare this bill for House consideration next week.”

The original version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fell apart because several lawmakers, including some of the GOP women who shepherded the legislation through the House in 2013, protested a provision mandating that a victim or rape or incest would have to report the crime to law enforcement in order to qualify for an exception to the 20-week abortion ban. Pro-life activists demanded the requirement stay in place in order to prevent doctors who make money off of abortions from getting around the ban by falsely claiming the woman was raped.

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House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash) convened a meeting of pro-life activists groups and leading GOP congresswomen following the frustrating March for Life setback with a straightforward goal: The two wings of the pro-life movement needed to collaborate to revive the pain-capable bill. Some of the lawmakers were angered by the pro-lifers’ demands, while the activists felt betrayed.

“Tempers were quite hot after the debacle in January,” says one source familiar with McMorris Rodgers’s “peacekeeper” meeting. “She made it clear that the groups needed to get together and hear each other out.”

A core group of lawmakers — McMorris Rodgers, Representative Diane Black (R., Tenn.), Representative Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), Representative Vicky Hartzler (R., Mo.), Representative Joe Pitts (R., Penn.), and Representative Chris Smith (R., N.J.) — hammered out a compromise, in consultation with the activist groups. The new legislation modulates the reporting requirements by allowing a rape victim to seek a late-term abortion if she has sought medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours before the procedure.

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“The options for the woman needed to be broadened,” a source familiar with the negotiations tells NR. “The key thing they wanted was for a woman who has been victimized by rape to be in control of the situation.”

I believe it is unconscionable that — in the year 2015 — the United States continues to be one of only seven countries to allow elective abortions at this late stage in a pregnancy.”

Black helped “close the deal” when it came time to finalize the reporting requirements. “This is a human rights issue,” the Tennessee Republican says in a statement on the new bill. “Science tells us that, after twenty weeks, babies can feel pain and are increasingly able to live outside the womb. As a nurse, I believe it is unconscionable that — in the year 2015 — the United States continues to be one of only seven countries to allow elective abortions at this late stage in a pregnancy.”

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) – the primary co-sponsor of the original bill, who had brought concerns about the reporting requirements to GOP leaders in January – deferred to McMorris Rodgers in this latest round of negotiations.

“She is an excellent, excellent communicator and she was willing to leave the hammering of the policy details to the people where that’s their sweet spot,” the source says.

RELATED: Defending Abortion by Dismemberment Isn’t Easy

On the other side of the ledger, pro-life groups were satisfied by new language stipulating that late-term abortions must be conducted in the presence of a physician who can provide medical care to any baby born alive through a botched abortion. That measure is a direct response to the case of Kermit Gosnell, the late-term-abortion doctor who was convicted of murdering three babies who were born alive.

#related#“They were shoving body parts down the garbage disposal,” the prosecutor said while describing Gosnell’s practices to a Philadelphia jury in 2013. “To the point where they plunged it one day and an arm popped out on Lancaster Avenue.” GOP lawmakers hope to pass the bill as close to May 13, the second anniversary of Gosnell’s conviction, as possible.

According to the Standard​, the revised bill also provides for an informed-consent form that describes “the gestational age of the child in the womb” and creates a civil right of action allowing a woman to sue if the abortion doctor does not follow the law.

“There aren’t many doctors who want to perform abortions,” the source says. “The civil right of action is another dissuader for the abortionist.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.


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