The debacle over an abortion bill quickly pulled from the House floor Wednesday didn’t have to happen that way, says Rep. Renee Ellmers, who started the rebellion against the measure to begin with.
“It’s unfortunate the way it played out,” Ellmers, a Republican from North Carolina, told reporters Thursday morning. “I think we’re all just going through some growing pains.”
Ellmers supports banning abortion past the midway point of pregnancy — which is what the bill the House originally planned to pass Thursday would have done. But she wants it tweaked so that women who have been raped don’t have to report it to law enforcement before they can obtain an abortion.
The measure, which leadership still intends to bring for a vote at some point, would ban abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman has been raped or her life is in danger.
Ellmers said she’s pushing for removing the reporting requirement because it’s hard on women who may not want to notify law enforcement. A majority of rapes in the country go unreported, she noted. And now that Republicans have majority in both the House and Senate, any legislation they pass must be carefully vetted to make sure it’s not viewed as harsh by women or young people, she said.
“When we come off as harsh and judgmental, we stop that conversation and we’ve got to learn to be doing a better job,” she said.
But Ellmers has already voted for the bill before, when the House passed it in June 2013. She dismissed that vote, saying she didn’t realize at the time that it contained the reporting requirement because it “wasn’t evident in the base language of the bill.”
Anti-abortion groups that have endorsed and funded Ellmers in the past were pushing hard for the bill that she has — at least temporarily — derailed. But Ellmers said she’s “not beholden to any outside group.”
“I want to continue to work with those groups, but the groups have to understand that we want to do what’s right for our constituents and for those we’re standing up for,” she said.