In 2021, Representative Michelle Steel, a California Republican whose district President Biden won in 2020, cosponsored the Life at Conception Act, a bill to recognize a fertilized egg as a person with equal protections under the 14th Amendment.
It was a year before the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Ms. Steel was one of 166 House Republicans — then roughly three-quarters of the conference — who would ultimately sign on to the legislation, which amounted to a nationwide abortion ban. She did so just weeks after it was introduced.
For Republicans at the time, the sweeping potential impact of the bill was not seen as problematic. With Roe v. Wade, which recognized a constitutional right to an abortion as the law of the land, the measure could have little practical effect. It was mostly a gesture of support for the anti-abortion movement, a vital source of political backing for the G.O.P. And Democrats, who controlled the House at the time, would never bring it up for a vote anyway.
By last year, when House Republicans introduced identical legislation, the landscape had changed considerably. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe, setting off a race by many states to impose severe restrictions, and abortion bans became a politically toxic issue for Republicans in elections across the country. The G.O.P. also was back in control of the House, if only narrowly, with the power to control what came to the floor.
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