Coffman Wants Rape Victim to Get Police Permission to Get an Abortion

05/14/2015 11:29 am ET | Updated May 14, 2016

Abortion continues to be a major focus of Republicans in Washington, D.C., as they voted Wednesday for a ban on abortion starting at week 20 of a pregnancy.

Few exceptions were included in the bill, and obstacles were put in place even for rape and incest victims who seek to end their pregnancies. For example, before having an abortion, a raped woman would have to report the crime to an "appropriate law enforcement agency."

It would not be enough for a woman to tell her doctor she was raped. She's mandated to tell police, even if she doesn't want to, for whatever reason.

Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman's vote in favor the measure should be of interest to reporters. For most of his political career, Coffman took a hard-line position against any rape or incest exception to his anti-abortion stance. He was vocal on the topic.

But facing a tough reelection campaign in 2013, Coffman issued a statement that he favored exceptions for rape and incest. But he's never explained why his position changed.

Why the evolution from someone who was fiercely opposed to abortion, even for rape and incest, to someone who favors exceptions? The makeup of his new district? A personal story?

Why is the requirement that a woman obtain permission to have an abortion from a law-enforcement agency enough for Coffman?

Just as House Republicans in Washington are again focusing on abortion, the left-leaning People for the American Way has released a new report, "The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From and What it Means for the Future of Choice," which explains the strategic thinking of the different factions of the anti-choice movement.

We saw these factions fighting each other in Washington this week over whether the 20-week abortion ban should include any exceptions for rape or incest victims. They compromised by allowing a raped woman to have an abortion -- if the rape is properly reported to authorities. But for some anti-choice advocates, this was not enough. No abortion, under any circumstances, should be allowed.

The report offers a broad overview of the politics and policy of personhood, focusing on the current disputes among personhood leaders over where to take the movement going forward. And it explains why some anti-choice leaders oppose state personhood amendments, even though they share the common goal of outlawing abortion.

The report points out that personhood leaders denounce anti-choice allies like Coffman when they support exceptions for rape and incest, even when done in an obvious effort to make themselves or their anti-abortion legislation more palatable to the public. The report states:

[T]he greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement's leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement's goals in the long term.

And you wonder: How does Coffman feel about it? Does he have residual guilt about changing his views? What made him shift from being a complete moral absolutist to mostly a moral absolutist on abortion? What's Coffman's story?