House Republicans pass 20-week limit on abortions

Abortion opponents rally at the steps of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Jan. 22, 2013. AP Photo

Despite calls from Republican Party leaders to move away from focusing on social issues, especially in light of the GOP's 2012 election losses, the Republican-led House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill that would restrict abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Restricting the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision by a month, the bill is a statement from social conservatives in the House and no more. It passed along party lines - all but six Republicans voted yea and all but six Democrats voted nay - but has no chance of even being considered in the Democratic-controlled Senate and, even if it did and passed there, President Obama said he would veto it.

Republicans, who have been urged by party leaders to focus on economic issues and to be more inclusive, touted the measure as a means to stop abortion providers like Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia, who was found guilty for what prosecutors charged was the murders of three babies born alive.

"After this Kermit Gosnell trial, some of the horrific acts that were going on, the vast majority of the American people believe in the substance of this bill, and so do I," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

During last week's markup of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., saidthe "incidences" of pregnancy from rape is "very low." Though Franks, who authored the bill, later clarified his comment - specifying abortions after six-months of pregnancy that originated in rape are "very rare" - Republicans reacted to the political fallout and had Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., replace him as floor manager for today's debate and vote.

They also amended the bill to include an exception to the 20-week rule for instances of rape - if the woman has reported the incident to authorities - incest - if the woman is younger than 18 - or when a health condition threatens the life of the mother.

"This is one of those days where we can truly say yes indeed we are truly taking an action that will give our children that first guarantee, the guarantee to life," Blackburn said.

Blackburn led the significant GOP female representation on the House floor Tuesday, in stark contrast to this bill's committee vote where there were only male Republicans - a gender divide Democrats have pointed to as a sign Republicans are out of touch.

"This is conservatism gone wild," Rep. Hakeen Jefferies, D-N.Y. said on the House floor. "We can only hope for the good of the country that our friends on the other side of the aisle can get the extremism out of the party today."

The bill wades into testy waters for the GOP. Republicans have lost votes - and elections - for conflating their anti-abortion rights stance with their ideas about rape and contraception, a problem that emerged last year in two unsuccessful Senate bids - Todd Akin's in Missouri, in which he utteredhis infamous "legitimate rape" comment, and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape were God's intention.

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