Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Possible '18 Missouri Preview, House Pulls Abortion Restriction Bill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Possible '18 Missouri Preview, House Pulls Abortion Restriction Bill

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * On the biggest day of the year for anti-abortion activists, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives canceled a planned vote on a proposal to end abortions after 20 weeks amid disagreements over what situation, if any, should be exempted from the ban.

Instead, the House passed another bill that would cut off federal funding of all abortions, a measure it has passed before, and one that extends to other areas of the federal government a ban already in place on Medicaid and some other public funding for abortions. The bill still needs to pass the Senate and faces a potential veto from President Barack Obama.

The decision to pull the 20-week ban, which abortion rights groups hailed as proof that anti-abortion forces had gone too far, came as tens of thousands participated in the annual March for Life, on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion until late in pregnancies.

The politics behind the decision to pull the bill may have provided a foreshadowing of a 2018 Senate race in Missouri.

One of the exceptions in the 20-week abortion ban, as written, is in cases of rape or incest. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, was among those who oppose those exceptions. She said she supports exceptions only when a procedure after 20 weeks threatens the life of the mother.

Wagner's proposal drew opposition from moderate Republicans in what Wagner agreed was a spirited debate behind closed doors of the 246-member House Republican caucus.

Wagner, a member of House leadership, said in an interview that, if necessary, she will vote for the bill with the rape and incest exception in it.

"I support the bill and, in fact, I believe that a 20-week-old baby that feels pain and recognizes the sound of its own mother's voice at that age should not be aborted, and that the only exception that I support is life of the mother," she said. "We are working on some of the details on it."

Opposition also rose within Republican ranks about a proposal that would make the rape exception only applicable if an alleged rape had been reported to police. That, too, made some GOP moderates uncomfortable and drew criticism from Democrats, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who said her experience as a prosecutor taught her that rape victims do not come forward for many reasons.

There also were reports that some Republican women in the caucus were concerned that passing the bill this early in the session would alienate younger voters and women. Wagner said she thought it a good move to pass the legislation before the Congress became embroiled in budgeting and other fiscal issues.

Wagner said that "everything we do in conference is spirited But we like to have those discussions in the family, and that is what this was."

She added: "I want to save 20-week-old babies that feel pain. …

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