House Republicans this week will call up legislation to impose a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a vote they will use to mark the two-year anniversary of Dr. Kermit Gosnell's first-degree murder conviction.
Gosnell was the surgeon who was found guilty of killing live babies after their delivery, and who routinely performed abortions after Pennsylvania's 24-week limit. His case renewed the debate over the safety of abortion procedures, after one of his adult patients died.
Gosnell was given life in prison.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who performed illegal abortions in Pennsylvania, was convicted of first-degree murder two years ago this week. House Republicans will mark the anniversary with a vote on legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks. (AP)
The vote is being held after Republicans struggled for several months to find a way forward on the bill. The GOP tried to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in January, but was forced to pull it from the floor after some GOP women feared a specific part of the bill went too far.
Specifically, the bill would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, a time limit based on scientific evidence that unborn children can feel pain 20 weeks after conception.
The original bill included exceptions to the abortion ban to save the life of the mother, and in cases of rape and incest. However, it also included a provision saying the rape and incest exceptions could only be used if the crime had been reported.
That's the language that had some GOP women worried that the bill might be overly restrictive, and would be opposed by younger voters.
One of those opposed to the bill, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), has said the new language would scrap the reporting language and instead would allow abortions after 20 weeks as long as doctors are made aware of the circumstances.
The specific language in the bill had not been released as of Sunday, but was expected to be made public early this week.
Despite the decision to back away from the more aggressive anti-abortion language, supporters of the bill said the alteration makes it "stronger" than the original bill.
"I am so grateful to all who have worked so hard to craft language that will now unite the pro-life base in a positive and effective way," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the legislation. "This proposal is substantially stronger than the original bill, and it places the focus back upon protecting mothers and their innocent little pain-capable babies, from the beginning of the sixth month until birth."
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) said the bill is a fitting way to mark the anniversary of Gosnell's conviction.
"While Pennsylvanians can't undo this tragedy, this legislation will protect innocent unborn children in the sixth month of pregnancy across the country - even better than the original version did," said Pitts. "This bill will help to ensure that tragedies like those that occurred in Kermit Gosnell's office will not happen again."
The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday to approve a rule governing debate and amendments on the House floor. That means the bill can be expected to come up on the floor as early as Wednesday, May 13 — two years to the day from Gosnell's conviction.