The House today rebuffed a GOP measure to limit abortions in the District of Columbia as opponents voiced concern that it undermines women’s access to reproductive health care.
An effort to pass the bill fell short on a 220-154 vote because it was taken up under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure that requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage.
“The majority of this House, the conservatives, can think of nothing better to do than to continue to wage a war against women and take up our time with these divisive issues,” Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said.
The legislation, which would ban abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks into a pregnancy unless the woman’s life is in danger, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.). In May, his legislation to impose penalties for performing an abortion knowing it is being sought based on the sex of the fetus did not advance on the House floor.
“What we are doing to babies is real. It is barbaric in the purest sense of the word,” Franks said.
Based on the premise by some medical providers that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, the bill would bar doctors from performing an abortion procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy. Violators would be subject to fines or imprisonment, with a maximum two-year sentence. The measure would prohibit the prosecution of the woman obtaining the abortion.
Franks caused a stir when he first held a hearing on the bill in May. Protesters rallied outside his office for more than an hour on May 23, arguing that the lawmaker was overstepping his authority by attempting to legislate for the District of Columbia. The Constitution gives Congress oversight and governing authority over the District.
The bill is unlikely to move forward in the Senate. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has introduced companion legislation, but it has not seen legislative action.
Adam Schank and Emily Ethridge contributed to this story.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.