House Republicans Collapse Under The Weight Of Their Own Bickering Over Abortion Bill

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House Republican leaders withdrew a controversial anti-abortion bill late Wednesday night after a contentious dispute arose over a rape reporting requirement in the measure. In an emergency meeting on Wednesday night, the House Rules Committee pulled the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from consideration. The measure would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, except in rare circumstances. Republican infighting developed, as moderate and conservative factions squabbled over language that would prevent rape victims from being eligible for exceptions to the abortion ban, unless they reported their rape to authorities. In the United States, nearly 2/3rds of rapes are not reported to the police.

Insensitivity towards rape victims has been an “Achilles heel” for the Republican Party, especially when the issue of rape intersects with abortion politics. In 2012, Republican Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana, saw their campaigns fall apart over rape apologist rhetoric that left voters shocked and baffled. Todd Akin’s infamous comment, ”if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”, sunk his campaign in Missouri. Indiana’s Richard Mourdock did no better when he implied that rape could be a miracle from God. While many Christians may agree that God works in mysterious ways, most draw the line at condoning rape. For that reason, Mourdock’s remark, ”I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen”, didn’t go over well with voters.

Social conservatives hoped to bring the bill to a floor vote on Thursday, the 42nd Anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. However, party moderates and many female Republicans, raised objections to the rape reporting requirement. Also, arguments arose over a provision that would not permit adult incest victims to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks. The bill may be reintroduced later in the legislative session, but the intra-party revolt has halted its progress. Consequently, a floor vote is not scheduled for the Roe v Wade anniversary date. Instead, a watered-down substitute measure, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, will probably be brought to the floor and passed.

The intersection of rape politics and abortion politics is fraught with complexity for Republican lawmakers trying to balance their pro-life credentials with their desire for humane treatment of rape victims. For rigid ideologues like Iowa Congressman Steve King, there is no dilemma. He simply argues rather bluntly, ”I would not make exceptions for rape and incest, and then the reporting requirement would not be necessary.” However, more pragmatic lawmakers often walk the perilous tightrope between placating their staunch anti-abortion backers, and following their conscience with more nuanced views on the issue.

North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, for example, spearheaded the revolt against the rape reporting requirement. She and Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski pulled their names off of the bill’s list of co-sponsors during the dispute. Yet, Ellmers herself seemed rather confused about her own position.  Late Wednesday night, she reversed course and said she supported the bill. Of course, her flip-flop took place after the right-wing North Carolina Values Coalition referred to her behavior as “traitorous”.

The more dogmatic voices in the pro-life movement will surely condemn the GOP House’s decision to pull the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from a floor vote on the Roe v Wade Anniversary, in favor of a weaker bill. Principled conservatives may soon find themselves frustrated with the new Republican majority. Even with Republican control of both houses of congress, compromises are still a part of governing.

What passes for the ”moderate wing” of the Republican Party won this battle. Whether they can continue to exert influence on the Tea Party-dominated 114th Congress remains to be seen. However, some GOP lawmakers are already expressing concern with the priorities of the new Congress. Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, summed up his dismay with the party’s direction with these words:

I prefer that we avoid these very contentious social issues. Week one, we had a speaker election that did not go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we got into a big fight over deporting children, something that a lot of us didn’t want to have a discussion about. Week three, we are now talking about rape and incest and reportable rapes and incest for minors. … I just can’t wait for week four.

How, the GOP will handle its new responsibility as the majority party in both chambers of Congress remains an open question. However, the party leadership’s inability to shepherd through the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to a floor vote, suggests that the art of governing will not be easy for a potentially fracturing Republican caucus. The battle between pragmatists and ideologues may prove interesting over the next two years.


 Image via screengrab

21 Replies to “House Republicans Collapse Under The Weight Of Their Own Bickering Over Abortion Bill”

  1. An anti-abortion bill so extreme that even some Republicans couldn’t vote for it. It is amazing that the Tea Party coalition has been allowed to get this insane.

  2. First they came for the women with horrible third trimester complications and called it “partial birth abortion” and we did nothing …

    Think about it

  3. Why don’t they calm down and do something they can all agree on-like um, uhhh…I know! Impeach or or Benghazi! No no, too hard. They should take a deep breath and pass bills annulling Obamacare and then defunding ACORN. Now they’re in familiar territory and they can call a 3 week recess knowing they’ve tackled vital issues. Schedule those Town Hall meetings now to brag about how your good ole GOP is governing…or something.

  4. For starters, I don’t understand the title of the proposed law: Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Bill.

    Remember in January 2011 when the Republicans in the House spent weeks redefining “rape”? There must be some prurient ingredient in genetic makeup of 21st century Republicans. They cannot get themselves worked up about people without jobs, the high cost of housing, the need to improve education, or that unceasing, encroaching ticking time bomb, climate change. Nothing gets them excited but the discussion of what “rape” entails.

  5. Little by little, this is how the extremists operate. They are chipping away at womens’ rights, voting rights. This is what happens when people do not get out and vote against people taking our rights away.

  6. Nah. They would have passed it, except they’re still bickering over what constitutes “legitimate rape.”

  7. I can’t understand the GOP’s all-consuming anti-abortion crusade. The only thing I can come up with is that it must be part of a Koch-funded, larger, engineered plan to destroy US democracy through their continual attack on the US people & society.

    There have always been unwanted pregnancies & there always will be. When a woman is forced to carry a pregnancy that she is neither emotionally and/or financially capable of sustaining, your guarantee the child will most likely become a very damaged person. All most all unwanted children are subject to some or all of the following: emotional & often physical abuse, poverty, lack of good healthcare & education, employment opportunities & will likely have substance abuse problems & become involved in crime. In other words, the GOP with their extreme policies & lack of foresight, are ensuring the systematic development of an extremely damaged population that will become a danger to society & life in the …

  8. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski is my representative. Pulling her name from this bill may be the first appropriate thing she has done on a major bill since she’s been in office. Aside from this one good deed, she is a GOP robot!

  9. They keep chipping away at Roe v Wade at every turn.
    Banning abortion will only make it UNSAFE, it will not make it go away.

  10. Can’t resist some snark here.
    When I read the passage “Insensitivity towards rape victims has been an “Achilles heel” for the Republican Party”, I immediately thought that of course they are insensitive to this, after all they are in the business of raping just about each and every one of us.

  11. Having thoroughly embraced/married Conservative Christian ideals, the GOP’s insane obsession with banning abortions forever is partly because they feel that women use abortions to escape the punishment of having (or forced to have) sex, i.e., pregnancy and labor pains, and their rightful place as sandwich-making Baby Factories For Jesus, in order to be sex-filled whore-daughters of Satan, and partly to help accrue more footsoldiers for Jesus.

  12. AHH!! But Tatiana, the rethugs do not care of the child after it’s born. They don’t care that the mother may not have the means to support the child, the only thing that does matter is…a Zygote must have the rights of a born, o2 breathing human.
    They do not believe the words of the very God they say, they believe in.
    Gen1:33 Gen2:7 Job33:4

    Like the last line of the post above. “foot soldiers for Jesus”

  13. I figured three months would show that the GOP can’t govern. They proved me wrong by proving it in less than one month. I mean I already knew as much because I was just starting to watch politics during the Ford administration.

  14. With Todd Akin’s notion that women have Bene Gesserit like powers and Richard Murdock’s “God works in mysterious ways” view of rape, it is small wonder that the “If a tree falls in the woods” theory is being advanced by Republican apologist to sidestep the distractions caused by the “R” word. How long can we continue to rely on “last ditch” stands to protect the victims of violence. Relying on the benevolence of those with our best interest at heart is certainly not the answer.

  15. Guess What Sam Brownback Wants To Cut Now
    It is extremely painful to watch what’s happening in Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback’s wacky trickle-down economic policies. As someone once said, that’s not money that’s trickling down! Via Think Progress:

    Rather than retreat from the massive tax cuts that are crippling his state’s finances, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) wants to cut classroom funding for Kansas schools by $127 millionand push pension fund payments off into the future.

  16. I cannot believe these idiots. What rock did they crawl out from. They want to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. They let me know if I have been raped, as long as it is a legitimate rape, I won’t get pregnant. I want to know how stupid can you get. The former republican senator from Arizona, Russell Pearce stated if he had been in charge of the Medicaid system, any woman who applied for Medicaid would have to be sterilized. I will never, ever, vote republican again. Even the Koch brothers couldn’t pay me enough to vote republican.

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