On Roe vs. Wade anniversary, House passes abortion funding bill

WASHINGTON -- Thursday is the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which gave women the right to have an abortion. House Republicans had intended to pass a bill today that would place new restrictions on who could get an abortion and when. But then Republican women stepped in.

As anti-abortion demonstrators marched outside the Capitol, House Republicans passed an anti-abortion bill -- just not the one they had planned.

In what amounts to an unforced error, Republican leaders had to pull a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, after a handful of GOP women rebelled.

What bothered them was language granting exceptions to incest victims only if they were under 18, and rape victims only if they had reported the crime to police.

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Pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators converge in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, during the annual March for Life.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Democratic women were quick to mock the GOP, which has stumbled on this issue before.

"Their original bill was too extreme even for them!" said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee.

"There are even some hypocrites on the other side of the aisle who have counseled their own girlfriends to have abortion," California Rep. Jackie Speier said. "It's legal, members!"

Moderate Republicans like Pennsylvania's Charlie Dent argued the party should use its new power to tackle the economy, not abortion.

"We want to get back to that kind of agenda, as opposed to very divisive social issues that frankly aren't going to go anywhere in the Senate," Dent said.

The controversial bill was replaced with one that reinforces a ban on the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.

The move disappointed protesters like Susan Allen of Tennessee, who headed inside to try to confront North Carolina Republican Renee Ellmers.

"She is one of the ones that wimped out on us, and we want to let her know how we feel about it." Allen said.

This whole incident shows the outsized influence of female House Republicans, who make up just nine percent of their conference but have been placed in high profile roles as the party seeks to show it's becoming more diverse.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.