On Thursday, a panel of eight male members of the House of Representatives met to discuss a nationwide ban of abortion after 20 weeks gestation.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice began consideration of the DC Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Trent Franks (R-AZ), who is also the chair of the subcommittee, originally would have banned abortion at 20 weeks gestation only in the District of Columbia. However, Franks decided to expand the bill nationwide following the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell, a rogue doctor who performed illegal abortions in Pennsylvania. Franks has introduced the bill in previous sessions of Congress, but it was defeated.
Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, “It is no small irony that Rep. Franks is using the subcommittee on the Constitution to advance legislation attacking the firmly established constitutional rights of women. Everywhere that similarly unconstitutional laws have been challenged in the courts including Rep. Franks’s home state of Arizona just this week they have been blocked before they could jeopardize women’s health and lives.”
In a scene familiar to women’s rights activists, the entire panel considering the bill was made up of men. Laura Basset, a frequent writer for the Huffington Post tweeted at the hearing “Well this looks familiar: every lawmaker at the House hearing on the nationwide 20-week abortion ban is a man.” The scene is reminiscent of last year’s debate on contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act, when the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform did not have any witnesses from the Democrats and only consulted male witnesses. In response, Sandra Fluke testified as part of a House Democratic Steering Committee hearing led by Nancy Pelosi.