Republican woman led the charge in support of a 20-week abortion ban that passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support on Tuesday evening.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) led the debate for the Republican majority as woman after woman spoke in favor of the bill.
The lineup contradicted claims by Democrats in the House that the bill is driven by “men in blue suits and red ties” in order to “endanger women,” in the words of Reps. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).
The bill, which passed 228-196, would outlaw abortion 20 weeks after conception, except when the mother’s life is in danger or in reported cases of rape or incest. It claims that unborn babies can feel pain after 20 weeks and potentially sooner.
“We are taking an action that will enable so many children to enjoy that first guarantee, that guarantee to life,” Blackburn said in her opening remarks.
Blackburn noted that public opinion surveys show widespread public support for this kind of bill.
Sixty-four percent of women support legislation protecting babies that can feel pain, while 60 percent of all Americans support restricting abortion in the second trimester and 80 percent in the third, she said. Federal law currently permits abortion up to birth, although some states have outlawed abortion earlier in the pregnancy.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) noted the sheer scope of abortion in the United States. Since 1973 there have been 52 million abortions, she said. The current population of the United States is about 320 million.
“It is unconscionable that in America, where we fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we tolerate the systemic extermination of an entire generation of the most vulnerable among us,” Foxx said.
The proposed 20-week ban originally only covered the District of Columbia. However, following the conviction of the Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell on three counts of first-degree murder for killing newborn babies, Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) pledged to expand the bill to cover the entire country.
Pro-abortion groups immediately condemned Franks’ announcement.
House Democrats also strongly denounced the bill. Pelosi claimed that it would outlaw all abortions, which is false.
Pelosi was not the only one to mix up her facts in the debate over the bill.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) stumbled over the fraught issue of rape in her comments on the floor. She said on the House floor that no man will ever experience rape, and she incorrectly cited Franks as arguing, like former Rep. Todd Akin (R., Mo.), that rape does not result in pregnancy.
“You can’t get pregnant, they say, if you get raped,” Slaughter said about the Republicans.
Slaughter was alluding to a comment by Franks during the House Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the bill. Franks, who was the sponsor of the bill, said “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”
The Republican leadership inserted language in the bill that would allow an abortion in the case of reported rape and incest after 20 weeks over the weekend, and Blackburn took on what would traditionally be Franks’ job in handling the bill on the floor.
The Democrats tried to derail the bill’s passage from the very beginning of its introduction on the House floor.
A repeated refrain from the Democrats was that the Republicans were taking on an issue that did not matter while neglecting weightier matters like the budget, jobs, and student loans.
“Just another day in the Republican Congress: more extremism, more dead-end bills,” Pelosi said.
Republicans were undeterred, however.
“I believe as a lawmaker I have a duty to protect those that are the most vulnerable,” said Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.).
The bill passed with bipartisan support. Six Democrats joined 222 Republicans voting in favor of the bill, while six Republicans voted against it.
President Barack Obama has threatened a veto of the bill, but it is not expected to clear the Senate and reach the president’s desk.