House Republicans approve 20-week abortion ban

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). SOURCE: Franks.House.gov

The Republican-majority House yesterday passed a ban on aborting fetuses older than 20 weeks after conservative lawmakers claimed there is “substantial medical evidence” that a fetus can feel pain 5 months after fertilization.

“It is the purpose of the Congress to assert a compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicate that they are capable of feeling pain,” according to H.R. 1797 “Protect Pain-Capable Unborn Children in the District of Columbia” Act.

The bill was approved by 228-196, receiving votes from 222 Republicans and 6 Democrats. Only 6 GOP lawmakers voted against H.R. 1797.

Read more: List of the 222 House Republicans & 6 Democrats who voted for the nationwide 20-week abortion ban

H.R. 1797 prohibits doctors, medical professionals, and other individuals from performing or even attempting to perform an abortion on a fetus that is 20-weeks or older. Physicians and others who violate the ban face criminal penalties that include a fine and a 5-year prison sentence.

The only exceptions to the 20-week abortion ban are if the termination of the pregnancy is “in reasonable medical judgment…necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman” or necessary to prevent “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” of a pregnant woman.

Notably, H.R. 1797 also does not provide any exceptions for women who are impregnated through acts of rape or incest. The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), claimed at a committee hearing last week that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low”. Franks’s statement echoed similar claims made by GOP Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin who said in 2012 that it’s “rare” for a pregnancy to result from rape because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down”.

Furthermore, the bill explicitly rejects consideration of a pregnant woman’s “psychological or emotional conditions” for terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks.

The bill’s passage has prompted outrage among women’s rights groups and pro-choice organizations, who warned that the 20-week abortion ban jeopardizes women’s reproductive health.

“Today’s vote is shameless politics. It’s anti-choice lawmakers in Congress catering to the most extreme wing of their political base. What they seem not to care about is that their political agenda puts the health of women across the country at great risk,” said Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, on Tuesday. “This bill is yet another example of how anti-choice leaders in Congress have ignored the results of the last election. The House of Representatives should be working on the country’s real, pressing challenges, not wasting their time and our money re-fighting 40-year-old battles and putting women’s health and safety in jeopardy in order to advance their own political agenda.”

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