WASHINGTON — House Republican who oppose abortion promoted legislation Wednesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
These Republicans want to move ahead despite recent court decisions that have struck down similar state laws. The GOP lawmakers also are taking on their own leadership, which has shown little desire to hold votes on contentious social issues.
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, joined by 10 other Republicans and anti-abortion advocates at a news conference, said there was a "good chance" that his bill would see action in the full House this year.
Franks and others said the legislation would gain momentum from the recent conviction of a Philadelphia abortion provider, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, for killing three babies born alive at his clinic.
In the four decades that abortion has been legal in the United States "many, until Gosnell, somehow construed abortion as victimless. That has changed," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
Franks' bill, which originally would have imposed the 20-week ban only in the District of Columbia, over which Congress has some jurisdiction, was expanded after the Gosnell case.
NARAL Pro-Choice America's president, Ilyse Hogue, said in a statement that Franks was "using this bill in a shameless effort to exploit the terrible tragedy in Pennsylvania where Kermit Gosnell was just convicted of murder for performing illegal abortions."
The news conference came a day after a federal court struck down a 20-week abortion ban in Arizona. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law violated a woman's constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is able to survive outside the womb. Viability is generally considered to start at 24 weeks.
Nine other states have enacted similar bans and have faced court challenges.
Franks said there was no question in his mind that the decision of the 9th Circuit Court, known as one of the most liberal in the country, would be overturned.
The House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, led by Franks, planned a hearing on the legislation Thursday, but there are no concrete plans for the full House to take up the measure.
Since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, GOP leaders have concentrated on economic and fiscal issues, giving less stress to some of the social issues important to conservatives in the party.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that fostering jobs was the top priority of the House, adding that the House also would focus on the oversight of the executive branch in the wake of recent scandals.