The Corner

GOP Lawmakers Feeling Pressure from Pro-Life Activists

House Republicans find themselves in the frustrating, and awkward, position of having raised pro-life activists’ expectations pertaining to a 20-week abortion ban, only to pull the bill after the activists arrived in Washington for the March for Life.

Worse yet, most of the Republicans don’t understand why the bill had to be pulled. “It’s incomprehensible,” said one lawmaker who has an event this afternoon with several-hundred constituents in town for the March for Life. “And what are you going to say — ‘yeah, it’s true.’ That’s really frustrating.”

One Republican lawmaker who has talked to the leading figures in the conversation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Representative Ann Wagner (R., Mo.) “led the effort” to have the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act pulled before the House could vote on it — even though Blackburn is one of the lead authors of the bill.

“Marsha has a commitment to the rape and incest exceptions without the reporting requirements,” the lawmaker tells National Review Online. Wagner has at times opposed the reporting requirements and at times denounced the rape and incest exceptions as insufficiently pro-life. “The frustration for me was, come on guys, give me at least a consistent argument.”

Republican supporters of the pain-capable bill, in its current iteration, are perplexed by Blackburn. Some sources suggest that she is fine with the bill as written, but wants to keep the GOP women united — the sticking point: a requirement that a woman who was a victim of rape or incest and wants to have an abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy must report the crime to law enforcement — and so she is trying to “manage” the bloc of opponents to the bill.

But Blackburn and other GOP women led the floor debate when the identical bill passed through the House during the last Congress, even as Democrats criticized the reporting requirements. A GOP lawmaker, telling NRO that Blackburn led the push for the rape and incest exception in the first place, suggested that she is moving the goal posts on her own bill.

“I’m left with either cognitive disconnect or duplicity,” the lawmaker says.

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