U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers wavers, then says she will support abortion bill

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

42 years after Roe v. Wade, women’s reproductive rights in danger.

Stop reading if you’ve heard this before: House Republicans had to make late-night, last-minute changes to a piece of legislation that they thought would pass easily. Deb Hauser was a married mother of a 6-month-old when her husband “went to work one day and didn’t come home.” Two weeks later, she realized she was pregnant. “I’m working full time.WASHINGTON — Democrats in both chambers of Congress will introduce a resolution Thursday that asserts the “constitutionally protected right to safe, legal abortion services,” the same day that House Republicans will vote to roll back abortion rights.

Support for an antiabortion bill is in flux amid a revolt by female Republican lawmakers concerned that the legislation’s restrictive language will once again spoil the party’s chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters.Jan. 21, 2015: Anti-abortion rights activists are connected with a red piece of cloth as they stage a ‘die-in’ in front of the White House in Washington. (AP) House Republicans searched for a way Wednesday to advance the new Congress’ first abortion legislation, hoping to avoid an inter-party implosion over a bill that at one point seemed all but certain of passage. Lead sponsors and senior Republicans aides predict that the bill will pass — but that won’t happen until leaders address the concerns of the female lawmakers, who oppose abortion but are concerned about the restrictive nature of the bill and holding a vote so early in the new congressional term. Wade: Another occasion to tally up the attacks on reproductive health care in legislatures across the U.S., wins and losses in the courts, and ground lost or gained in the battle over women’s rights and health care. The evening switch comes after a revolt from a large swath of female members of Congress, who were concerned about language that said rape victims would not be able to get abortions unless they reported the incident to authorities.

Renee Ellmers says she will support an abortion bill set for a vote in Congress on Thursday after wavering this week and then facing a storm of criticism. The dispute among Republicans, some of whom sought last-minute revisions Wednesday, focuses largely on the measure’s language allowing exemptions for rape victims only if the attack was reported to police. The dispute once again demonstrates how the changing contours of the expanded House Republican caucus are causing rifts on issues where the party once had more unity. The new legislation doesn’t stand a chance to become law, but House Republican leadership wants to have some sort of pro-life bill on the floor Thursday when the anti-abortion March for Life comes to Washington. One lawmaker raising concerns was Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, who said of her party, “We should not be looking back in history, we should be looking forward.” Some Republicans also objected to the bill’s exception allowing abortions for pregnancies caused by incest, which would apply to minors yet not for someone at the “age of majority.” “So, it would apply to a 16-year-old, not a 19-year-old,” said Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a co-chairman of a House caucus of self-described centrists, in an interview.

Unlike the last few years that were dominated by tea party-backed conservatives, the House now has more moderate Republicans from swing districts who could face tough reelections in 2016 when more Democratic and independent voters are expected to vote in the presidential election. All I know is I had a responsibility to my 6-month-old.” Hauser had an abortion, “which was absolutely the right thing to do for me, and for my son,” she says. “I never ever regretted it.” Eventually her husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they were divorced, and she remarried and raised her son, who is now 20. “Abortion has played a really important role in my life,” she said. “It got me stable again.” Now she wants to help other women tell their abortion stories. So intense were some of the discussions during a private meeting among House Republicans Wednesday that staff members were told to leave so members could talk more privately, Dent said. Instead of just playing defense against Republicans’ 20-week abortion ban, Democrats are responding with a pro-abortion rights resolution that highlights the stark contrast between the parties on reproductive rights.

Already this month, a large bloc of moderate Republicans voted against a spending bill that would repeal President Obama’s changes to immigration policy enacted by executive action. Supreme Court’s historic decision 42 years ago, when women of means could travel to get safe care, and women without were left with few or no options. As the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion approaches Thursday, abortion rights forces hope this new tack will help them reverse the momentum gained by abortion opponent in recent years. Now, people familiar with the dispute say that as many as two dozen Republicans have concerns with the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy.

In Texas—where the Roe battle began—politicians have enacted laws that have shut down more than half of the state’s abortion clinics and devastated access to family planning services. Another view, espoused by sympathetic lawmakers and others in GOP leadership, is that the players on the top rungs of the House Republican Conference are paying more mind to moderate voices within the party. Sponsors say that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement.

In control of the entire Congress for the first time in eight years, Republicans also want to demonstrate that they can focus on issues that matter to voters and not get bogged down in gridlock. Congress now in GOP hands, federal restrictions are likely to pass as well. “It’s very clear that pro-life legislators and people running for office are on the offense now,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion advocacy group, the Susan B. Late Wednesday, Ellmers posted to Facebook a one paragraph message: “To clear up any misinformation, I will be voting tomorrow to support H.R. 36 – The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protect Act Resources bill. Dissenters said Republicans were wrong to introduce divisive social issues into the political debate, and many women took offense to the language that required victims report rapes.

Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “It will never become law.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a brief interview that he believed the House would debate the bill as planned. Politico reports that six GOP congresswomen, including Ellmers, also expressed concerns that the rape exception in the bill is too narrow because it only would only apply to women who have filed police reports. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said Wednesday that his proposal “has overwhelming support among the American people and I think all of us know in our hearts that very late-term abortion of pain-capable children is not who we are as Americans.” But GOP opposition is led by Reps. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who withdrew their support last week and voiced concerns during meetings at the annual Republican policy retreat in Hershey, Pa. A report this week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office cited estimates by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that about 10,000 abortions in the U.S. are performed annually 20 weeks or later into pregnancies.

Richards says the movement to destigmatize abortion also has a special appeal to younger women. “They are much more open about sex, sexuality, sexual identity, and abortion,” she said. Planned Parenthood consulted on the production of last year’s indie film Obvious Child, in which a young comedian played by Jenny Slate finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after a one-night stand. “It was so refreshing,” Richards said. “Most of the time abortion is talked about [in the media], it’s some gothic story. We have to demand that our elected leaders advance real measures to restore access to basic women’s health services for the millions who have had it taken away—not political measures that will only worsen the crisis. On the popular conservative blog Red State, a headline blared: “Renee Ellmers is Worse Than a Democrat.” The concerns among female Republicans set off a scramble Wednesday among top GOP leaders concerned about how several “no” votes could be perceived by their party and the general public. Which is not to say she agrees that speaking out will – or should – eliminate the stigma. “It’s very true that women are afraid to talk about their abortion,” she says. “It’s very true that there is a lot of shame associated with it.

Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). At the same closed-door retreat two years ago, Republican pollsters implored GOP lawmakers to stop discussing rape on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill. The warnings came after several candidates faced heat in 2012 — including former congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who said a woman could terminate a pregnancy resulting from a “legitimate rape,” and Richard Mourdock, a GOP candidate for an Indiana Senate seat, who said that babies resulting from rape were a “gift from God.” Franks, who is an ardent antiabortion activist, has been known to take an aggressive stance on the issue in the past, often clashing with Democrats opposed to his proposals.

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