Some House Republicans who oppose abortion rights are pushing legislation to implement a nationwide abortion ban at 15 weeks, coming just hours after the Supreme Court released its opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
The push for such a ban is a notable effort given that Republicans have a strong chance to take back control of the House in this year’s midterms, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressed support for the idea on Friday.
The legislation appears unlikely to advance in the Senate in the near future – due in part to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Still, the early discussions represent the excitement energizing opponents of abortion rights, eager to capitalize on Friday’s victory.
Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey – one of the GOP’s leading anti-abortion voices who said the issue is what inspired him to run for office – said he’s planning to lower his proposed 20-week abortion ban down to 15 weeks in light of the Supreme Court eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.
Smith is the chief sponsor of “The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill has previously passed the House when Republicans were in power, and the GOP has pointed to that measure as a piece of legislation they would like to again put on the floor if they regain control of the chamber next year.
But Smith said he’s planning to make the ban stricter.
“We’re working on something along those lines,” Smith said, when asked by CNN about a nationwide abortion ban. “I have the ‘Pain Capable’ at 20 weeks. We’re going to lower it to 15. There are all kinds of ideas there.”
“But we don’t have at this point the ability to overcome a veto or a filibuster,” he added.
His effort has attracted some high-profile supporters in the conference. McCarthy told CNN he backs legislation to codify a 15-week ban on abortion, saying: “I’d support that.”
Separately, when asked by CNN at a news conference on Friday, McCarthy did not commit to putting any specific pieces of anti-abortion legislation on the House floor if they recapture the majority.
After the news conference, Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri told CNN that she has reassurance that one of the very first bills a GOP-led House would vote on is her “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which requires medical care to be given to an infant that survives an attempted abortion, even though medical care would already be required under such a scenario.
Top House Republicans typically have been wary to push for stricter, nationwide abortion bans and are instead expected to focus their messaging on calling for bans on so-called late term abortions, which are rare. But Republicans feel like it’s a more popular message and that polling is on their side when it comes to late term abortions.
Other high-profile GOP supporters of the 15-week ban include Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, would be in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee; and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a member of GOP leadership.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, House Republicans have started discussing what anti-abortion bills they would put on the floor if they win the majority and have used recent closed-door party meetings to discuss their messaging and strategy on abortion.
CNN reported that earlier this month, the head of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List addressed a House GOP conference meeting, where she talked to members about how to message on the issue and encouraged members to take incremental steps toward banning abortion if they win the majority.
Besides the 20-week ban bill, there is also a stricter measure in the House that would prohibit abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which has more than 100 Republican co-sponsors in the House.