OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP vows abortion bill will be back

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bill would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.

The pro-life community was looking forward to Thursday, when the House was scheduled to vote on the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”—a bill that would ban abortions for women over 20 weeks into pregnancy—as the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion protest, was descending on the National Mall. Republicans muscled legislation through the US House on Thursday tightening federal restrictions on abortions as thousands of abortion foes marched outside in their annual protest. For a brief, beautiful moment in time, the legislators and activists were to align in their quest to further restrict abortion access in America—but it all came crashing down. Infighting among social conservatives in Congress—in a sense emblematic of broader disorganization within the movement—led to the cancellation of the vote, forcing the march to soldier on, directionless. Even as a White House veto threat all but ensured the bill would never become law, the House voted 242-179 to permanently bar federal funds for any abortion coverage.

Specifically, female GOP lawmakers in the House fought against a provision in the bill concerning rape: if a woman wanted to circumvent the ban because her pregnancy was the result of a rape, she would be required to provide a police report as proof of rape—suggesting that unreported rapes are illegitimate. (The Justice Department estimates that 68 percent of rapes are not reported to authorities.) Such a redefinition of rape, many House Republicans (reportedly mostly women) realized, would open lawmakers in swing districts up to potentially devastating attacks from Democrats and women’s groups come 2016. LaRock introduced legislation Thursday that would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of medical emergencies.

With the new, fully Republican-led Congress three weeks old, they are serving notice they will no longer keep quiet as their more ideological colleagues push legislation to the right, demand votes on social issues, or court government shutdowns to try to block President Barack Obama. “There’s a growing sense in the conference that we need to get things done here, not just make political statements,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, a freshmen lawmaker. “We should be focused on the agenda of the American people and not on taking an infinite amount of symbolic votes that aren’t going to get anything done.” Most of these lawmakers are self-described conservatives themselves, but with a practical, business-friendly approach, and without the uncompromising purity of some on the right. Republican leaders hurriedly pushed the measure to the House floor hours after abruptly abandoning another bill banning most late-term abortions after a rebellion led by female Republican lawmakers left them short of votes.

But on a day when crowds of anti-abortion demonstrators stretched for blocks outside Capitol windows — and hours after the embarrassing GOP stumble on another abortion measure — Thursday’s vote let party leaders signal that the Congress they now command is at least trying to end abortion. Obama, in the West to promote his State of the Union economic and education agenda, embraced the same 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion that the protesters were vilifying. The issue has long been one of the most bitter in America, pitting those who view abortion as the killing of a defenseless human being against those who argue women have the right to decide what happens to their body. He said that decision “reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.” He said the House-passed bill would “intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today.” “This march is part of a longer one, and our destination is clear: to secure and protect the rights of every unborn child.

Wade, I am “a survivor.” Banaszak told me he worries about birth controls that are actually “abortifacients,” a term he believes accurately describes Plan B and IUDs. While supported by conservative lawmakers, leaders of the GOP-controlled House have made the focus of legislative agenda on “kitchen table” subjects like the economy and education instead of social issues. In the four decades since the supreme court ruling, the divide has not narrowed, with polls indicating Americans remain about evenly split over the issue. “I urge my colleagues to stand with the hundreds of thousands of people out on the Mall right now by voting for this bill,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican. “Stand up and commit to creating an America that values every life.” Democrats accused the Republicans of yet another assault on women’s freedom and painted Republicans as if they were merely trying to placate the marchers within hearing range. GOP leaders had been forced into one embarrassing retreat after another on legislation, and the federal government had been propelled into a partial 16-day shutdown in the fall of 2013 in a failed attempt to shut down Obama’s health law.

The approved bill would permanently ban the use of federal money for nearly all abortions – a prohibition that’s already in effect but which Congress must renew each year. With the Senate now under GOP control, House-passed legislation actually has a shot at making it to Obama’s desk. “Much of the legislation we passed in the past we knew wasn’t going to go anywhere in the Senate; we knew Harry Reid wasn’t going to bring it up for a vote,” said Rep. Some wore religious garb while others carried signs with messages ranging from “Defend Life” and “I am a voice for the voiceless” to “Thank God my mom’s pro-life.” No. 4 House GOP leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, told the crowd that having her 7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, has intensified her commitment to the anti-abortion fight. The movement now seems slightly lost: would-be presidential candidates, save for the evangelical verging on theocratic types, rarely discuss social issues. Two dozen conservatives voted against House Speaker John Boehner in his leadership election, failing to oust him but boasting historically high defections.

It would bar individuals and many employers from earning tax credits for insurance plans covering abortion that they pay for privately and purchase through exchanges established under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Then, as Republicans sought to use a Department of Homeland Security spending bill to oppose executive actions by Obama on immigration, conservatives pushed for language to unravel protections Obama had granted to immigrants brought illegally to the country as children — exposing those young people to eventual deportation.

Were such a proposal to become federal law, it wouldn’t matter if Paul wanted Plan B to be legal, because he wouldn’t have any say in how his law would be interpreted at the state level. The amendment on immigrant kids passed last week, but it did so by a narrow margin as 26 Republicans opposed it, exposing deep unease among some lawmakers over the direction House Republicans were taking in the new Congress’ opening days. Perhaps because the social conservative movement has struggled to find its new platform, issues like abortion and “traditional” marriage have been discussed by mainstream politicians mostly within the confines of social conservatives—not that they’re always fighting over the podium there. On Wednesday, those concerns burst into the open as lawmakers rebelled against the initial version of the abortion bill, forcing House leaders to beat a retreat and setting up a new, ongoing challenge for a leadership that’s previously worried mostly about its right flank. “Week one we had a speaker’s election that didn’t go as well as a lot of us would have liked. At the Family Research Council’s conference ahead of Thursday’s march, former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has hinted at another run for the White House, was the headliner.

Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., to protest her role in scuttling the bill, despite her strong anti-abortion voting record. “It was insulting, it was heartbreaking,” said Brandi Swindell, CEO of Stanton Healthcare of Boise, Idaho. “We want to see our pro-life lawmakers standing with us, not against us.” Breitbart News reported that, according “multiple eyewitnesses,” counter-protesters wielding signs reading “ABORTION ON DEMAND WITHOUT APOLOGY” were arrested for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.”

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