“I hate the way it all played out, but we just have to do better next time,” Ellmers said in an interview while exiting the Capitol Thursday, after the replacement bill easily passed the House. “The whole point of this is to make this bill stronger.”

Why leadership did not initially listen to the women still baffles members of the conference, many of whom spoke privately to reconstruct a timeline of events leading up to the ultimate decision to pull the bill.

It is clear, they say, that leadership decided to gamble that their swollen ranks, the largest Republican majority in more than a generation, would easily accept the same bill that passed last Congress, banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.