GOP Women Just Took A Brave Stand on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Today, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, women have something to celebrate.

Today, the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which proposed to ban abortion after 20 weeks, making exceptions only for women who reported cases of rape or incest.

But the vote isn't happening. And it's not because President Barack Obama threatened to veto the bill if it passed, but because two Republican congresswomen, Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), decided they didn't want a bunch of men telling women what to do with their bodies.

Yesterday they withdrew their support of the bill, and this caused a snowball effect. By early this morning, the Associated Press reported, moderate Republican congressmen were questioning the bill, prompting the GOP to drop it entirely. 

A pleasant surprise: The Republican Party is already infighting, just days into its congressional session. Apparently, GOP women have decided that, in this instance at least, they are women first and politicians second. On the anniversary of the most important piece of law pertaining to a woman's right to choose, this bill-drop signals a promising turn in the abortion debate.  

Renee Ellmers be like NOPE.
Source: 
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The backstory: Ellmers and Walorski took issue with the clause allowing for abortion past 20 weeks only in cases of reported rape. Statistics show that only 68% of women report cases of rape to the police. Many women do not, for fear of additional abuse or not being taken seriously. Soon moderate male colleagues (but not all) were agreeing with them. "When you start getting into telling a woman that she has to report she was raped to be able to qualify," Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told the National Journal, "that takes it in a direction that makes me very uncomfortable." Fiscal conservatives, too, took issue with the fact that the bill would result in a $235 million increase in Medicaid spending to care for "pregnancies taken to term."

Ellmers also argued that the proviso and the bill in general would push both Millennial and female voters away from the GOP. At a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, the National Journal reports, the bill's co-sponsor Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) gave a speech basically saying the whole thing's a clusterfuck, "noting that because of the rape clause, the GOP was again fumbling over this sensitive subject instead of talking about other issues, according to sources in the meeting."

Victory? Well, sort of. Instead of voting on HR 36, the House will vote on the self-explanatory No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 7), which as Jezebel noted, is redundant because the Hyde Amendment already prohibits taxpayer money paying for abortions. 

But even though women's reproductive rights have been increasingly under attack in recent years, especially in state legislatures, today's withdrawal of HR 36 from a floor vote sends a message to women across America: Even if the GOP still doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose, it sees them as a powerful and influential voting block. 

More importantly, today's decision tells women that, at least on some level, they are being heard.

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Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

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