Republicans Dispute Federal Power to Regulate Abortion

Politico has a story about Marco Rubio’s attempted sponsorship of federal anti-abortion legislation. Apparently the bill is being delayed, however, by a dispute about federal power to regulate abortion:

Rubio and 27 other Republican senators signed onto a bill from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in 2011 that would require lawmakers to point to which piece of the Constitution allows government expansion — and he said adherence to that idea is causing the slowdown, not cold feet. Rubio said “certainly” the Constitution would allow a federal law banning abortions after 20 weeks — it’s just a question of which portion of the document.

The story doesn’t say what constitutional powers are in play or what the nature of the dispute is. My guess, though, is that some senators want to invoke the Commerce Clause, which seemed to be the assumed source of federal power for the partial-birth abortion statute; others who take a conservative view of the Commerce Clause probably want to take the more radical position of justifying it under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, as legislation enforcing the due process or equal-protection rights of fetuses. That’s just speculation, though.

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