House GOP May Change Rape Language In Abortion Bill After Women Rebel

A routine anti-abortion messaging bill is causing consternation among House Republicans as some GOP women rebel against rape-related language.

As a result, House Republicans are discussing ways to tweak the legislation, which bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the bill’s author Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) told TPM.

“My heart is open if we can find some way to make it better,” Franks said in an interview just off the House floor on Wednesday. “But at this point I don’t know what that is. There seems to be no consensus as to how we could make it better.”

The language that raised objections from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) would require rape victims to report their sexual assault to the authorities before seeking treatment to terminate their pregnancy.

House GOP leaders had intended to pass the bill this week, and now that’s up in the air, sources say. Their challenge is to ease the rape language without alienating more staunchly anti-abortion members or they could end up losing more votes than they gain.

“Leadership has a very difficult task in terms of being able to gauge the ultimate task of balance and consensus,” Franks said. “I don’t envy their conundrum.”

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Republicans discussed the issue and Ellmers’ objections in a conference meeting on Wednesday morning which went long, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told TPM. He said that language may be tweaked but that no decisions have been made yet.

Leaders are “trying to address those concerns,” Cole said. “Look, we’re a pretty united pro-life conference but we’re trying to make sure we’re all together on something this important.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, torched the rape language as “absolutely unacceptable” and argued that it’s “the quickest way to ensure that there is less reporting of rape” by women.

“This bill is an abomination,” Wasserman Schultz told TPM in an interview. “It really shows women in this country exactly who’s on their side and where Republicans’ priorities are when it comes to their health.”

The bill is sponsored by Franks and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

On Tuesday, the White House threatened to veto the legislation, saying it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s holdings on abortion rights and strongly criticizing the language relating to sexual assault.

This article has been updated.

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