House Republicans pull 20-week abortion ban vote over rape exception

Tuesday: "House leaders sticking with abortion bill despite defections."  Last night: "House pulls vote on 20-week abortion ban."

Republicans had hoped to court conservative constituents with a strong pro-life showing today, casting a vote on H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, on the same day as the March for Life.  The legislation would ban most abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, when children in the womb are fully developed and can feel pain.  But trouble with the legislation arose when Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), along with "a number of GOP women[,] incited a last-minute revolt against one part of the measure."

Ellmers and her fellows took issue with the specific language of the "rape exception": unlike in most other abortion legislation, where an allegation of rape invalidates all restrictions whatsoever, in H.R. 36, a mother seeking an abortion in the case of rape would have to report the crime to the police.  The Washington Examiner reports that Ellmers withdrew her sponsorship over the issue, though she said she would still vote for H.R. 36 if it came to the floor.

In the wake of Ellmers's defection, GOP leadership have pulled H.R. 36.  Having made a point of timing the bill's vote to coincide with the March for Life, they intend to replace it with H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which seeks to undo some of the many, many disturbing ways Obamacare funds elective abortions.

Ellmers seems sympathetic to the idea that one viable option for coping with rape is for a mother to secretly destroy her child.  She may not be aware of abortion corporations' habit of aborting sex abuse victims' babies and then sending these women back to their abusers

Ellmers supporting pain-capable legislation in 2013.

The rape exception was ill-advised from the start; all rape exceptions are.  Indeed, there was no rape exception when the House debated the bill in 2013 (Ellmers called what was then H.R. 1797 "an important bill that will protect women and unborn children," "supported by reliable scientific research"), but House Republicans, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), inserted one after the initial debate.  Liberal commentators who became apoplectic over bill sponsor Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)'s contention that "the incidence of pregnancy from rape is very low" missed the point: how can a rape exception make sense in a bill whose raison d'être is the scientific evidence that children in the womb feel pain after twenty weeks' gestation?  Does a child conceived in rape lose the ability to feel pain?

Even well-meaning pro-life Republicans will continue to shoot themselves in the foot as long as they subscribe to the view that equal protection of the right to life is conditional based on how a person is conceived.  That so many pro-life people (and politicians) have capitulated on the "rape exception" – the tacit agreement that society can execute certain children based on the crimes of their fathers – is a huge problem.  It grievously undermines the foundational pro-life argument that human beings in the womb, by virtue of their humanity, are people deserving protection.

Outside the rape exception, under no circumstances would anyone call it justice to kill one person for the crimes of another.  Republicans have skated on this issue, perhaps assuming that "the incidence of pregnancy from rape" is indeed so low that too few interested parties exist to confront them with the rhetorical morass inherent in such an inconsistent and incoherent position.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who sponsored H.R. 7, told NPR that "[t]he pain-capable legislation is only delayed. ... It'll be up on the floor soon."  In what form remains to be seen.

Drew Belsky is American Thinker's deputy editor.  Contact him at, and follow him on Twitter @DJB627.

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