To hear the mainstream media tell it, Republicans were thwarted in their efforts to pass an anti-abortion bill that contained an odious rape and incest exception by women in the House Republican caucus who found the measure too extreme. This is even the story being told by Democrats on the Hill as they argued against yet another Republican assault on choice, but it's just not true.
What is true is that on Tuesday afternoon, two of the Republican women who had co-sponsored H.R. 36, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), removed themselves as co-sponsors of the bill:
"Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to remove myself as a co-sponsor of H.R. 36."
Following that, the House GOP decided to drop plans to vote on the measure on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, allegedly because of a revolt among "women and moderates" in the party. While it is true that the decision to pull the bill is based on a desire to appear more moderate and friendly toward women, it had nothing to do with the bill being to extreme, and to the extent they had a "come to Jesus" moment, they were brought to Jesus by President Obama.
The bill in question contains a rape exception that requires women and girls to report rape and incest before they can access an abortion after 20 weeks, an exception that carries unfortunate echoes of the "legitimate rape" issue that killed Republicans with women in 2012. The plan all along was for the House to pass this bill on the anniversary of Roe as a stunt for their base, with the full knowledge that it could never pass the Senate, let alone become law. That provision was in the bill when it was introduced two weeks ago, when Ellmers and Walorski co-sponsored it, along with 178 other Republicans and four Democrats, and it was necessary because the anti-abortion right knows how those women lie all the time about being raped. Since no one else was supposed to even notice this bill, there was no problem.
It didn't suddenly become a problem because they changed their minds about the language in their bill. Even after she took her name off of it, Renee Ellmers publicly endorsed H.R. 36:
"To clear up any misinformation, I will be voting tomorrow to support H.R. 36 – The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protect Act Resources bill. I have and will continue to be a strong defender of the prolife community."
Yes, and fetuses have always been at war with Eurasia. Not only that, both Ellmers and Walorski have already voted yes to this exact provision. In fact, when the House passed this same bill, with the exact same legitimate rape provision last year, not a single Republican woman voted against it. They supported it then, and on the substance, they support it now.
What actually happened was that on Tuesday, several hours before Ellmers and Walorski abandoned H.R. 36, the Obama administration issued a veto threat highlighting the bill. This veto threat came as Republicans were busy drawing attention to veto threats by whining about them, and just hours before his State of the Union Address, at which he talked to normal America about reproductive freedom:
"We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs."
It was only after this one-two punch that Republicans realized that the rest of America could see them.
As amazing as it is that lame-duck defeated Obama continues to get these kinds of results, it's even more important that Americans realize exactly who it is he's fighting against. The most moderate and woman-friendly these people get is to pretend not to support a thing that they already voted for.