Republicans continue their swan dive into misogyny - at both the state and federal level - defying political common sense.
WASHINGTON — After Republicans lost the presidential election and seats in both the House and the Senate last year, many in the party offered a stern admonishment: if we want to broaden our appeal, steer clear of divisive social and cultural issues.
Yet House Republicans seem eager to reopen the emotional fight over abortion by bringing to the floor on Tuesday a measure that would prohibit the procedure after 22 weeks of pregnancy — the most restrictive abortion bill to come to a vote in either chamber in a decade.
The bill stands no chance of becoming law, with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. Republican leaders acknowledge that its purpose is to satisfy vocal elements of their base who have renewed a push for new restrictions on reproductive rights, even if those issues harmed the party’s reputation with women in 2012.
Much of the movement in recent weeks can be linked to the outcry over the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia physician who was convicted last month of first-degree murder for cutting the spines of babies after botched abortions.
His case, coming on top of successful efforts to curtail reproductive rights in the states, has reinvigorated the anti-abortion movement to a degree not seen in years, advocates on both sides of the issue said.
“These laws are flying through,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports access to abortions. “The attention has really been at the state level around abortion issues. Now what you also see at the federal level is very disturbing, and it shows that abortion opponents are very emboldened.”
House Republicans reject the notion that they are ignoring the lessons of 2012 by not focusing on a message of “growth and opportunity,” as the party’s introspective postelection report recommended.
The bill before the House, called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would ban abortions from 20 weeks after fertilization. In the most common way of measuring pregnancies, that is equal to 22 weeks, because pregnancies are typically dated from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.
Similar laws that banned abortions at or near 22 weeks have been enacted in 11 states since 2010. In Georgia, Idaho and Arizona, which enacted an 18-week post-fertilization ban, courts have blocked them.
These measures are very different from previous attempts to limit abortion because they are based on an argument that is rooted in the belief, held by a minority in the medical community, that fetuses begin to feel pain around 20 weeks. Most scientists, however, believe that the nervous system is not developed enough to register pain until later in pregnancy.