After H.R. 3, Are There Any Pro-Choice Republicans Left In The House?

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL)
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Yes, America, there are pro-choice Republicans. But after this week, there’s some question about whether are any left in the U.S. Congress.

H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” that passed the House May 4 is not likely to become the law of the land. But the fact that it passed the House with unanimous Republican support means the pro-life members of the party, which includes all the House leadership, can tout their attachment to social issues, even after the supposedly fiscal-first tea party movement helped take over the GOP last year.

For pro-choice Republicans, the vote means embarrassing questions. Basically every pro-choice group says H.R. 3 is an anti-abortion bill that goes far beyond the government’s current prohibitions on abortion funding and actually raises taxes on women who want to seek abortion coverage in their private insurance plans.

That’s a double-whammy for pro-choice Republicans. One, raising taxes under any circumstances is a no-no for anyone in the modern GOP. And, two, the bill has been cast as the biggest assault on abortion rights in years.

Voting against such a measure, then, would seem like a no-brainer. Except it wasn’t. None of the about a dozen House GOP members the the Republican Majority For Choice PAC considers allies voted against H.R. 3. In fact, all of them voted yes.

“We opposed the bill, we considered it an anti-choice, big government intrusion and politically we think it’s a bad move for the Republicans to keep focusing on this,” K.R. Ferguson, executive director of the PAC told TPM.

Still, she says that she’s not prepared to say the members who voted for it have given up their pro-choice credentials. She pointed to the refusal of some Republicans to sign on to the House plan to defund Planned Parenthood as the kind of thing that will keep the PAC’s endorsement coming.

“I would not say we would stop supporting any of the members who took this vote,” Ferguson said. She said that though it’s hard to rectify being pro-choice and voting for H.R. 3, support from her PAC isn’t “an all or nothing” prospect.

There are still Republicans who run as pro-choice members, despite the fact that the party in the House is about as far from supporting a woman’s right to choose as it could possibly be these days.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) touted his endorsement from Ferguson’s PAC back in 2010. Ferguson said he might get it again, despite his vote for H.R. 3. Dold’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Though repeatedly expressing her extreme disappointment with the vote, Ferguson suggested Dold and his fellow pro-choice Republicans really had no choice.

“The extreme who was pushing this bill did a masterful job of spinning it as a no taxpayer fundings for abortion [measure] and putting these members in an almost impossible position,” she said. “We don’t like it, we will continue to call on our members to try to educate them” on the truth of the bill.

Illinois Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, a past co-chair of the House pro-choice caucus, says that her vote for H.R. 3 was completely consistent with her pro-choice views.

“Rep. Biggert is pro-choice. She supports a women’s right to chose, but she does not support public funding for abortion,” spokesperson Zachary Cikanek told TPM. “Abortion is a private decision, and it should be paid for with private dollars – without government involvement. That’s why she voted for H.R. 3.”

Cikanek noted that Biggert “has stated publically that she thinks Congress should be keeping its attention focused on spending and jobs, and not spending its time locked in debate on divisive social issues.”

Not all pro-choice advocates are willing to accept that kind of answer. NARAL President Nancy Keenan told TPM that a pro-choice vote for H.R. 3 is a political oxymoron. Though her group is non-partisan, NARAL hasn’t endorsed any Republicans serving in the current House, despite the fact that members like Biggert claim to be supporters of the cause.

“No member of congress can vote for this egregious bill and be considered pro-choice,” Keenan said. “Bottom line.”

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