Instead, Mr. Jeffries said, “you come to the floor as part of your march to criminalize abortion care. To impose a nationwide ban. To set into motion government-mandated pregnancies.”
And some Democratic lawmakers shared deeply personal and tragic stories, warning that criminalizing abortions can have lethal consequences for women. On the House floor, Representative Frederica Wilson, Democrat of Florida, recounted what she said was one of the most painful episodes of her life, when the 7-month-old fetus in her belly stopped moving and was pronounced dead. But because Roe v. Wade had yet to establish abortion rights nationwide, state law barred the doctor from inducing labor.
“The corpse of that child was still within me,” she said. “My little body was wretched with pain, weakness and frailty.” She said she almost died, and went into labor at eight and a half months. “Oh, what pain. Oh, what grief,” she said, adding, “I beg you, I plead you — we can’t go back.”
The House also approved a measure condemning attacks on facilities, groups and churches that oppose abortion rights. It too passed mostly along party lines, with Democrats noting that it did nothing to condemn violence or property crimes at facilities that help women seeking abortions.
Earlier in the week, as part of a new rules package for how the chamber will operate, House Republicans also pushed through a measure to speed consideration of legislation permanently blocking the use of federal funds for abortions. That prohibition, known as the Hyde Amendment, has for decades been implemented on an annual basis through government spending bills.
But the legislation imposing new criminal penalties for failure to care for a baby born after an attempted abortion sparked the most heated debate on the House floor. Republicans described grisly abortion stories, while Democrats accused them of spreading fear to score political points.
The point for Republicans, said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California Davis School of Law who specializes in the politics of reproductive health, was to make abortion seem universally unacceptable.