Republican Rep. Dan Lungren distanced himself from controversial bill language involving abortion funding in cases of "forcible rape" during a Tuesday debate with 7th Congressional District rival Ami Bera, saying he told the original sponsors of House Resolution 3 that he "would not support" the proposal unless the word "forcible" was taken out.
"So in fact, if you're talking about the mistake they made, I was the one who pointed it out," Lungren said. "... I can tell you it was after I went to them and told them I couldn't support it if they didn't take the word forcible out that they changed it."
Congressional records show, however, that Lungren signed on as a cosponsor of the bill when the legislation was first introduced, before 'forcible' was deleted from the text.
Lungren said his concerns were based on his commitment to preserve what's known as the Hyde Amendment, language that Congress has for years passed to ban using certain federal funding for abortions. He said he worried any change in wording "would change the state of the law."
His office blamed a misunderstanding at the time of the bill introduction for the disconnect.
Brian Kaveney, the communications director in Lungren's Washington, D.C., office, said the Gold River Republican agreed to become a cosponsor before seeing the actual draft legislation because he was "under the impression that they were going to use the original Hyde language."
"When he got the bill and he reviewed it and he saw that somebody had tampered with that language he basically said that was unacceptable and he went to the original cosponsors and he said you have to change this," Kaveney said.
Spokespersons for the two congressmen Lungren said he contacted about the language change have not responded to a request for comment.
The "forcible rape" bill has fueled attacks in the rematch between Bera and Lungren. Democrats sought to tie Lungren to the legislation after another cosponsor of the bill, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, came under fire for saying a woman's body can somehow prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate" rape.