Rep. Ami Bera, a doctor who was elected to Congress last year, questioned Tuesday why his Republican colleagues brought a bill to the floor to restrict abortions beyond 20 weeks when they knew it had no chance of becoming law.
"Why aren't we talking about the things the public wants us to talk about?" the Elk Grove Democrat asked in an interview after he cast a no vote.
The measure passed the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote of 228-196. Six Republicans broke with their colleagues against, as did six Democrats in favor. It's not likely to survive in the Democratic-majority Senate, and President Barack Obama said he'd veto it if it did.
The bill was designed to satisfy social conservatives after a Philadelphia abortion doctor recently convicted of murder in the deaths of three babies born alive. Kermit Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison.
But it raised an issue that turned out to be unfavorable for Republicans nationwide in last year's elections. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., created a firestorm last week when he said in a hearing that "the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." It echoed a remark last year by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who said that pregnancies didn't result from "legitimate rape." He lost badly to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
After Franks' remark, an exception was added to the bill for victims of rape and incest, but the exception would require a woman to report the rape to law enforcement officials.
Bera called Franks' statement "ridiculously ignorant" and said that as a doctor, he'd seen victims of sexual assault come to the emergency room. "These women are at an incredibly vulnerable point in their lives," he said.
None of California's 38 Democrats voted for it, but virtually all of its 15 Republicans did. They included House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, as well as Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock, David Valadao of Hanford and Tom McClintock of Elk Grove.
PHOTO: Dr. Ami Bera smiles as he leaves his polling place at Foulks Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling