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New US House Republican majority focuses on abortion

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Republican lawmaker Nancy Mace, pictured at a campaign event in 2002, urged her party to take a 'centrist' stance on abortion./AFP
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Jan 12, 2023 - 10:28 AM

WASHINGTON — Republican US lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday shoring up their anti-abortion credentials — despite accusations from within their own ranks that they were out of step with more moderate public opinion on the deeply-sensitive issue.

Republicans reclaimed a majority in the House of Representatives this month, giving them a handle on power in Washington for the first time since last year’s Supreme Court decision gutting federal protections for the right to abortion.

Wasting no time in picking up the hot-button issue, the chamber green-lit two resolutions — the least controversial of which condemns attacks on churches, groups and facilities involved in anti-abortion activism.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber of Congress also approved legislation requiring health care providers to ensure infants who survive late term abortions, typically taken to mean after around 21 weeks of pregnancy, are looked after.

The legislation is largely symbolic, since it targets an extremely rare outcome — about one percent of abortions are late term — and the protection is already codified in a bipartisan 2002 law establishing that infants have the rights of a full human.

The resolutions passed roughly along party lines, with almost no Democratic support — but have no chance of being rubber-stamped by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Restricting abortion rights remains key to the Republican base and is backed by the vast majority of party members of both the House and Senate.

Republican leaders say they are making good on promises of action made during last year’s midterm election campaign.

“I am proud that Republicans are following through on the promises that we made to the American people. All life is sacred and must be protected,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said in a statement.

But the country as a whole is much more liberal on the issue, and it is believed to have cost Republicans seats last November, when abortion rights advocates swept multiple state-level votes to protect access to the procedure.

South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace has accused party leaders of being “tone-deaf,” accusing them of pushing “messaging” bills that will die in the Senate and advocating a more pragmatic approach to reducing the number of abortions in the country.

In a Sunday interview with CBS, the congresswoman argued that “if we’re going to be serious about protecting life, for example, maybe we should look at more centrist views, like ensuring every woman has access to birth control.”

Mace’s Republican House colleague Brian Fitz also questioned the wisdom of prioritizing the votes.

“Nancy’s a friend of mine and I agree with her. She’s right about that,” he told MSNBC on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s wise to be going down this path.”

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