A day that began in confusion ended in a pro-life victory as the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday, the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the day of the March for Life.
On Wednesday, a planned vote on H.R. 36, the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” was delayed after a number of Republicans expressed concern that the bill's rape exception was too narrow. House leadership replaced that expected vote with the defunding bill.
The Republicans who opposed the rape exception said the requirement that a woman would have to report her rape to the police to be eligible for an abortion was too stringent. H.R. 36 has been a top legislative priority for a number of pro-life groups.
The delay of the bill infuriated many members of the pro-life movement, while others merely expressed disappointment.
Blogger Jill Stanek called it “a slap in the face” to pro-life activists. Stanek also criticized Rep. Renee Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican whose opposition to the rape exception led to the vote delay.
“What's up with Rep. Ellmers?” asked Stanek. “She calls herself pro-life, and she voted for the exact same bill in the last Congress — but now she's making a stink?”
In 2013, Ellmers voted for the 113th Congress' version of the Act. Last night, after pulling her support from the current bill — which she had previously cosponsored — Ellmers posted on Facebook that she would support the bill as it stands if it was given a vote today.
However, Ellmers' decision came too late, as the House leadership had already delayed the vote because of her prior opposition. Instead, the House voted on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which would eliminate almost all federal abortion funding.
According to a senior GOP House aide, it is not Ellmers who is “ultimately responsible” for the back-and-forth on the 20-week ban bill. Instead, said the aide, “Washington Democrats' continuing war on the unborn” was most to blame.
The aide also said that Republicans “remain committed to continue working through the process on the pain capable bill to make sure it too is successful.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement, “While we are disappointed that the House will not be voting on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act today, we are pleased that the House is moving forward to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.”
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Dannenfelser, whose group was critical to the creation and promotion of the 20-week ban, indicated confidence in Republicans in both the House and the Senate. “We support Majority Leader McCarthy's call for a prompt vote on Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act this Congress,” she said, “[and] we will also be working with the bill's sponsor Senator Lindsay Graham to continue advocating this measure in the U.S. Senate.”
Off the Hill, however, many pro-life commentators seemed to agree with Stanek, not Dannenfelser.
Journalist Mollie Hemingway wrote at The Federalist that the delay showed a “level of incompetence and cowardice [that] should alarm us all.”
“If Republicans can’t pass wildly popular legislation protecting innocent unborn children, what’s going to happen when they face difficult legislative battles? It’s best to view this as a very simple test for House Republicans. A test they failed miserably,” she wrote.
“The GOP has been exposed, just after its election, as incompetent and having contempt for its base,” wrote Red State's Erick Erickson, who previously said Ellmers is “basically a liar.”
The 20-week ban was originally introduced in the Senate by Graham in 2013, and he is expected to introduce it again this year. A pro-life activist who spoke with LifeSiteNews on condition of anonymity told LifeSiteNews that despite the controversy in the House, “Sen. Graham has assured us he is not backing down” on his support for the ban.