House Republicans run into divisions over abortion bill

Pro-abortion rights activists are connected with a red piece of cloth as they stage a ‘die-in’ in front of the White House in Washington Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — House Republicans ran into divisions Wednesday over the new Congress’ first abortion bill, and leaders were trying for a way to advance the legislation without an embarrassing split over the issue.

Legislation set for debate Thursday would ban virtually all abortions for pregnancies of 20 weeks or longer. It would offer some exceptions, including for victims of rapes that have already been reported to authorities.

Some Republicans were upset about that requirement, saying that many women feel too distressed to report rapes and should not be penalized.

“The issue becomes, we’re questioning the woman’s word,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C. “We have to be compassionate to women when they’re in a crisis situation.”

Thursday’s debate was timed to coincide with the annual march on Washington by abortion foes marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 legalizing abortion.

It also was coming as Republicans, looking ahead to the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, hope to increase their support from women.

The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, calling it “an assault on a woman’s right to choose.”

The GOP rift on the issue was discussed Wednesday at a private meeting of House Republicans.

Afterward, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a brief interview that he believed the House would debate the bill as planned.

“We’re moving forward,” he said. “There’s a discussion and we’re continuing to have discussions.”