House Republicans advanced a pair of measures on Wednesday that, while largely symbolic, put their stamp on the abortion battle as it continues across the country a half-year after the Supreme Court struck down federal protections.
The first measure condemns violence against crisis pregnancy centers that counsel women against having abortions. The second measure would set new penalties and regulations for abortion providers in cases in which a child is born despite an attempted abortion or failed abortion.
The newly GOP-controlled chamber voted 222-209 to approve the measure condemning attacks on crisis pregnancy centers; it voted 220-210 to advance the measure designed to curb “born-alive” abortions.
House Republicans pushing the measures said that they’re designed to protect health care workers and unborn children at a time of increasing violence.
“It condemns the attacks that have been committed against pro-life facilities, groups and churches in the wake of the leak of the Dobbs opinion and the subsequent decision,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who wrote the measure defending the crisis centers. “In recent years, there has been an alarming trend of more and more attacks on pro-life organizations and individuals. And in the wake of the Dobbs decision, the problem became much worse.”
House Democrats accused the GOP lawmakers of hypocrisy for not consulting them first before introducing the measure and for ignoring the recent spate of violence against abortion providers.
“Every Democrat I hope every Republican rejects and condemns political violence. We settle our disagreements at the ballot box and through the rule of law, not by violent actions,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. “Republicans say this resolution’s about condemning violence and enforcement of laws. Yet it only condemns those of their favorite organizations and facilities — the pro-life crowd. They should be aghast that they don't include the murders of the 11 people killed and abortion care providers since 1993.”
New anti-abortion laws are all but certain to fail in the Democratic-led Senate, with President Biden’s veto pen offering a further bulwark against anti-abortion legislation. But the House Republican effort is a signal — to advocates and their voters — that they are engaging the abortion debate with their new majority in the chamber.
Many Republicans were initially skittish about embracing the issue last year after the Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion access. Democrats saw a surge of enthusiasm, which they hope will carry into the 2024 elections and beyond.
But Republican leaders have again warmed to tackling the issue on Capitol Hill. Longtime anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America tweeted congratulations to Kevin McCarthy shortly after he won the speaker’s gavel last weekend. The group said it looked forward to working with “all our pro-life House allies to advance federal legislation that protects unborn children and their moms from the horror of abortion.”
But while the issue has kept attention on the national level, the most substantive policy battles have been taking place in the states, which are now free to take any number of measures to restrict or outlaw abortion after the Supreme Court ruling. Those outcomes are largely dependent on the partisan makeup of the state houses and governor’s mansions.