The US House of Representatives has scheduled a vote Thursday, on the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to ban all abortions after 20 weeks. HR 36, the cynically misnamed “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would prohibit all abortions after 20 weeks based on the professionally unsupported notion that fetuses are capable of feeling pain after the 20 week mark. Currently, and constitutionally, the right to abortion care is protected until “viability,” the point where a fetus can survive outside of the mother, as is the patient-doctor relationship where medical decisions are not legislated.
A similar bill passed previously in the House in June of 2012, and again in 2013, but was stopped in the Senate. This time there is no clearcut majority in the US Senate to protect the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision that gave US women the right to terminate their pregnancies. Prior to 1972, although some states protected access to safe and legal abortion, many states did not, forcing desperate women, primarily those with a low income, to resort to exceedingly dangerous procedures overseen by unscrupulous and unlicensed practitioners.
Abortions after 20 weeks are actually extremely rare. They make up only 1.5 percent of all annual abortions. But they are crucial. As I have written elsewhere:
Even with perfect access to family planning and birth control, there will still be a need for abortion…Fetal anomalies and health risks to the mother due to an untenable pregnancy are typically not detectable until later in the second trimester. For the sake of their own health, and often in consideration of their existing family, pregnant women with these issues must then have access to safe abortion, one that usually costs much more than a first trimester abortion. Six out of ten women seeking abortion at any stage are already mothers…
Women gather every year on January 22nd in support of the right to safe, legal abortion. Abortion care cannot be separated from other reproductive health care. As I have said:
Legislators motivated by religion- or political pandering- believe that…they may be able to pass whatever ideologically-based law suits their fancy, as if women don’t have rights, and aren’t prepared to defend them. Contact your Congress member to oppose this most recent affront to women’s liberty…Abortion bans have no place in our democracy…
And finally I come once again around to this:
There’s only one conclusion I can draw from all this oppression and outrage: they hate our freedom. Too bad for them, because we will never go back. That is the chant heard today in Center City Philadelphia and across the country at countless pro-Roe events: We won’t go back! We won’t go back to women having ten or fifteen children whether they want them or not. We won’t go back to back-room abortions. We won’t go back to sitting down and shutting up.
Every year more women come out in support of Roe and their constitutional right to determine whether and when they will become parents. We’ll be out there again Thurday – find out more here. Come join us. The US House Republicans have poked a bear.