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About-face: House will not vote on 20 week abortion bill during March for Life

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House Republican leadership has delayed a vote on H.R. 36, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" after a week of controversy over its rape exception and related provisions.

Instead of voting on H.R. 36 on January 22, the day of the 42nd annual March for Life, the House will consider the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would prevent all federal funding of abortions except in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

The delay of the vote on the 20-week ban came after a week of controversy over its rape exception. Like its counterpart in the last Congress, the bill said women impregnated after being raped could only get an abortion after 20 weeks' gestation if they reported the assault to police.

Several female House Republicans, including at least one supporter of the bill that passed the House in 2013, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, said the exception was too narrow. Specifically, Ellmers said the reporting requirement should be eliminated.  

The last minute switch left many pro-life leaders fuming. Jill Stanek told LifeSiteNews that the move was "a slap in the face of the pro-life movement, the day before the March for Life. They [Republicans] are taking the pro-life movement for granted.”

“They should pass both bills, not one or the other," she said.

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission likewise shredded Republicans, saying that he was "disgusted by this act of moral cowardice."

"If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?" asked Moore.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was less blistering in his criticism, but in a public statement also expressed disappointment.

"One of Family Research Council's top legislative priorities has been the passage of the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act," he noted, praising the House for taking up the defunding bill. "Americans have been forced to violate their conscience and religious convictions long enough by being made to fund President Obama's massive abortion scheme."

“We applaud the leadership for remaining committed to advancing pro-life legislation," he said.

According to NPR, leading House pro-life advocate Chris Smith of New Jersey, a Republican, demurred when asked about the bill. "The pain-capable legislation is only delayed," Smith said. "It'll be up on the floor soon. We are working through a few bits of text."

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Both the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" and "The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" are considered unlikely to become law, in light of Democratic opposition in the Senate, where they will need 60 votes to move forward, and the likelihood of being vetoed by President Obama.

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