Now that Republicans are running the show on Capitol Hill, we’re seeing a lot of the same old things that they have beaten to death for years, coming back with new life. But, in their most recent attempt to roll back America’s clock to the 1950’s, the good old boys’ club known as the GOP in congress may have run into a problem with some of its own membership.
Republicans are on their annual legislative retreat, in Hershey, Pennsylvania this weekend, where they are discussing policy, and their plans for the new congress. In the typical Republican fashion of style over substance, leadership in the House of Representatives is preparing a vote on an anti-abortion bill for the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, January 22. But the men are running up against a mini-revolt by some Republican women.
According to Politico, a group of female Republican lawmakers, led by Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, are objecting to the anti-abortion bill’s language concerning rape.
The Huffington Post says that Ellmers told her colleagues in a closed door meeting that she believes the bill would turn off younger voters. She thinks that those voters are sick of the Republican crusade against legalized abortion. Ellmers told the National Journal,
I have urged leadership to reconsider bringing it up next week.… We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be careful again; we need to be smart about how we’re moving forward.
The police report provision in the abortion bill is the problem.
The new abortion bill in question would ban abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. Republicans say that restriction meets with the approval of a majority of Americans. Only days ago, according to Politico, the all male GOP leadership believed that this bill was a way to approach the issue without alienating the segment of younger voters that they will need to win over, in order to have any chance to regain the White House in 2016.
The problem with the bill, for Ellmers and the other women who are supporting her, is that it requires a woman who has been raped to file a police report in order to get an exemption from that 20 week cutoff date. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that only about one third of all rapes get reported. In addition, according to RAINN, the rapist is only convicted of a felony in two out of every 100 cases.
A Republican staffer confirmed that at least six legislators raised the issue with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), according to Politico. The bill is co-sponsored by Tennessee GOP Representative Marsha Blackburn, who is yet to weigh in on the concerns of her colleagues.
Ellmers is getting attacked by some on the right. Erick Erickson, writing on his Red State blog, calls Ellmers “basically a liar.” Erickson says that the congresswoman “promptly got back to Washington and reversed herself on everything she had campaigned on.”
Democrats, on the other hand, are coming out in support of Ellmers. The congressional pro-choice caucus, led by representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), issued a statement, which says, in part,
Forcing women to go on-the-record about such a traumatic experience as a prerequisite to getting help is unconscionable, and adds to the pain of women who are survivors of rape or incest. Families across this country don’t want politicians inserting themselves into these extremely personal decisions, much less defining whether a rape or case of incest was legitimate or not.
Like other bills already passed by the new congress, this bill is another example of the GOP’s “style over substance” way of governing. Instead of getting down to the business of trying to help the economy, and working with the president, Republicans are already showing that they intend to spend much of their time bringing up legislation to excite their base. The National Journal says that, even if this bill passes the House, it is not clear whether Mitch McConnell would bring it up in the Senate, where it would face an almost certain filibuster. Should the legislation make it to the president’s desk, there is little doubt that President Obama would veto it.
Photo of Renee Ellmers via Wikimedia Commons