On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in all 50 states. Senator Lindsey Graham, with the support of 45 other GOP Senators, has now introduced the bill in the Senate, where it will need 60 votes to pass.
If it passes the Senate and is signed into law by President Trump, any doctor who violates the 20 week abortion ban will be subject to criminal penalties in the form of a fine and up to five years in prison.
The bill allows exceptions in circumstances such as danger to the mother’s life, rape or incest, but not without adding additional obstacles. In cases of rape, a woman is only permitted to seek a post-20 week abortion if she has sought counseling and reported the assault to police. In the case of minors who are victims of incest or rape, they must go through law enforcement or social services to qualify for a post-20 week abortion.
During the debate on the House floor, Representatives cited a number of lies to back up their position in support of the bill, one of which was that only seven other nations allow for post-20 week abortions. In reality, 59 other countries allow women to access abortion after 20 weeks.
Although the bill is called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the overwhelming majority of scientists and medical professionals say that at 20 weeks a fetus hasn’t even developed the neurological wiring necessary to feel pain, and a 2005 study suggests that fetuses don’t feel pain until the third trimester.
20 week abortion bans have already been ruled unconstitutional in federal court, as Roe v. Wade states that abortion can’t be banned until a fetus is viable outside the womb, which isn’t until after 24 weeks. But women’s rights advocates believe that anti-abortion lawmakers intend for this new bill to wind its way through the court system and potentially serve as a Constitutional challenge to Roe, thanks to a Supreme Court that right-wing politicians intend to stack with anti-abortion justices, such as Neil Gorsuch.
The overwhelming majority of abortions take place prior to the 20 week mark, and those who seek out abortion later in pregnancy often do so for very complicated and personal reasons, including severe fetal anomalies, most of which can’t be detected prior to the 20 week mark.
24 states have restrictions on later term abortions with 17 states banning abortion after 20-weeks. A poll recently released by the Center for Reproductive Rights found that 61 percent of adults in the United States support the federal government passing legislation to protect women’s access to abortion and prevent states from passing laws meant to restrict access. Another poll shows that 60 percent of adults support post-20 week abortion access after they were given details about why women seek one out.
Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 9/27/17; The Hill 10/5/17; Bustle 9/28/17; Care2 9/28/17;