"I just didn't think it was appropriate," said Niehaus, a supporter of earlier anti-abortion measures. "It's a distraction from our primary focus of getting the economy back on track."
But anti-abortion leaders say they are determined to push on into more Republican strongholds, taking advantage of the party's majority status.
"It is definitely the case that the future for us lies beyond what is considered your traditional pro-life states," said Dan McConchie, vice president of Americans United for Life, which circulates model legislation to state lawmakers.
The dissension, strongest in the Midwest and southern border states, is flaring as the GOP prepares for competitive races in the contested regions next year. The anti-abortion movement is poised to press for constitutional amendments giving legal rights to fetuses, bans on abortions based on gender, and an end to abortion exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
Anti-abortion Republicans have gotten more than 170 new abortion laws passed in 30 states since the party won control of a majority of statehouses in 2010. This year's push was highlighted by some of the strongest restrictions yet passed in North Dakota, Arkansas and Texas.
The key measures banned abortions after approximately six weeks, 12 weeks or 20 weeks, depending on the state; required women to see the fetus on an ultrasound; required doctors to have hospital admitting privileges; and required clinics to have full hospital-type facilities. More than a dozen GOP states in the South and West adopted all or most of the package.
If the new laws are upheld by the courts, many providers would close. Only six of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas are expected for remain open, serving the nation's second largest population. Already, only one clinic remains open in Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.