How the GOP Fixed the Late-Term Abortion Bill

Republican women got the bill pulled from the House floor the first time around, and they were instrumental in bringing it back.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05: U.S. House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) listens during a briefing March 5, 2014 at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC. House Republicans briefed members of the media after a closed conference meeting.
National Journal
May 12, 2015, 5:56 p.m.

House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers did something al­most un­heard of Tues­day night: They whipped an abor­tion bill.

In a move that is usu­ally ta­boo on so-called votes of con­science, the House Re­pub­lic­an whip team circled the House floor dur­ing votes Tues­day even­ing, test­ing sup­port for a con­tro­ver­sial bill that aims to ban late-term abor­tions—though they were care­ful not to call it a whip op­er­a­tion.

The ef­fort shows just how care­fully GOP lead­ers are tread­ing. They are not tak­ing any chances after the bill was em­bar­rass­ingly pulled from floor con­sid­er­a­tion in Janu­ary on the an­niversary of the Roe v. Wade Su­preme Court de­cision over con­cerns from GOP wo­men and mod­er­ates that it was in­sens­it­ive to wo­men who be­come preg­nant as a res­ult of rape.

(RE­LATED: A Look at Late-Term Abor­tion Re­stric­tions, State by State

The Pain-Cap­able Un­born Child Pro­tec­tion Act will see a House vote Wed­nes­day, after the Rules Com­mit­tee late Tues­day night tacked on an amend­ment brokered by GOP mem­bers and out­side an­ti­abor­tion groups. Sources close to lead­er­ship were con­fid­ent that the amend­ment, which strikes a con­tro­ver­sial rape-re­port­ing re­quire­ment and re­places it with a 48-hour wait­ing peri­od, would smooth over con­cerns and glide the bill to pas­sage.

The bill was pulled the first time be­cause Re­pub­lic­an wo­men ex­pressed strong con­cerns, and this time they were in­stru­ment­al in broker­ing the new lan­guage. Act­ing as a go-between for mem­bers was Con­fer­ence Chair­wo­man Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, who prom­ised an­ti­abor­tion ad­voc­ates at a rally out­side the Cap­it­ol the same day the bill was pulled that it would be re­con­sidered. She held the ini­tial meet­ings with out­side groups soon after the bill was pulled in an ef­fort to rees­tab­lish trust with many who were frus­trated that lead­er­ship had made their de­cision.

“She was deeply ded­ic­ated to the pro-life cause, but the people who were on both sides of the in­tern­al con­flict have a great deal of con­fid­ence and trust in her,” said Rep. Trent Franks, the ori­gin­al spon­sor of the bill. “She was an ir­re­place­able factor.”

(RE­LATED: HHS Says All Meth­ods of Birth Con­trol Must Be Covered

Rep. Di­ane Black—a nurse—was in­stru­ment­al in ne­go­ti­at­ing a fi­nal deal that helped find the middle ground between a rape-re­port­ing re­quire­ment and no re­port­ing re­quire­ment at all. Un­der the new ver­sion of the bill, wo­men who are seek­ing late-term abor­tions from a preg­nancy con­ceived through rape have to ac­cess med­ic­al help or coun­sel­ing 48 hours pri­or to re­ceiv­ing the pro­ced­ure, and the onus is on the phys­i­cian to en­sure that it hap­pens. Franks de­scribed Black’s pro­pos­al as a “turn­ing point” in the ne­go­ti­ations, which had been drag­ging on since the bill fell apart on the floor earli­er this year. Franks said Black per­son­ally ap­proached him in the cloak­room just a few weeks ago.

“I would have voted for the bill with no ex­cep­tions. I’m a no-ex­cep­tions per­son. But there were le­git­im­ate con­cerns,” Black said in an in­ter­view Tues­day. “We re­cog­nize that if a wo­man has a vi­ol­ent act such as rape, we need to be com­pas­sion­ate.”

In some ways, be­ing able to re­sur­rect a bill re­stored trust in lead­er­ship among con­ser­vat­ives such as Franks. He cred­ited lead­er­ship for not back­ing down from their com­mit­ment to get the bill passed out of the House, even as it stands very little chance of ever passing in the Sen­ate—not to men­tion ever be­ing signed by the pres­id­ent.

(RE­LATED: The Con­ser­vat­ive An­swer to Fem­in­ism

“He made a prom­ise and he kept it, and that around here is gold,” Franks said of Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy.

Oth­er wo­men who once spoke out against the ori­gin­al 20-week abor­tion ban be­cause of the rape re­quire­ment said they were much more com­fort­able with the bill now.

“What had been an abor­tion bill had be­come a rape bill,” said Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Cyn­thia Lum­mis. “I be­lieve this bill ad­dresses that. My early con­cerns are al­le­vi­ated.”

While lead­ers were forced to pull the abor­tion bill from the floor be­fore the an­niversary of Roe v. Wade, the new le­gis­la­tion will be voted on dur­ing an­oth­er sig­ni­fic­ant an­niversary: two years to the day that former abor­tion phys­i­cian Ker­mit Gos­nell was con­victed for con­duct­ing il­leg­al late-term abor­tions, in­clud­ing killing at least three live-born ba­bies.

In a nod to out­side groups who wanted to see more pro­tec­tions for un­born ba­bies, the new­est ver­sion of the bill also re­quires that a second phys­i­cian be in the room at the time of the pro­ced­ure if there is any in­dic­a­tion that the fetus could sur­vive. It also in­cludes pro­vi­sions deal­ing with in­fants born alive dur­ing an abor­tion pro­ced­ure, an in­formed con­sent form for wo­men seek­ing late-term abor­tions, and a right of civil ac­tion against abor­tion pro­viders who do not fol­low the law.

What We're Following See More »
Kelly Craft Nominated for UN Post
1 hours ago
Trump Blocks Federal Funding to Groups that Make Abortion Referrals
5 hours ago

"The Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood Friday, issuing a rule barring groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program — a move that is expected to direct millions toward faith-based providers."

House Expects Tuesday Vote to End National Emergency
9 hours ago

"The House plans to vote Tuesday on legislation to formally block President Donald Trump’s attempt to circumvent Congress to fund his border wall, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday. The privileged resolution to stop Trump’s emergency declaration — which has 226 co-sponsors, including one Republican — is expected to easily pass the House. It then will be voted in the Senate within 18 days."

Trump Signs Border Deal
1 weeks ago

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Trump Declares National Emergency
1 weeks ago

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.