On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced that a vote on the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would take place next week.
Sponsored by Republican Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ-8), bill H.R.36 would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in all 50 states. Anyone who violates the 20 week abortion ban would be subject to criminal penalties in the form of a fine and up to 5 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 counselling and reported the assault to police. In the case of minors who are victims of incest or rape, they must go through law enforcement to qualify for a post-20 week abortion.
The bill has 158 cosponsors and is expected to pass the house, where Republicans have a majority. According to a letter written on the campaign trail in 2016, President Trump has stated that he would sign such a bill if it reaches his desk.
An earlier version of the bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate in 2015 due to a lack of support by Democrats.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 24 states in the U.S. have restrictions on later term abortions with 17 states banning abortions after 20-weeks. Most of the individuals who seek to obtain a late term abortion do so due to logistical challenges that include travel, finding an abortion provider, or raising the funds for the procedure. Women are also more likely to obtain a late term abortion if they have had disruptive life events such as unemployment or separation from a partner. Additionally, many serious or life-threatening fetal abnormalities do not become evident until the 20 week mark, making it a stressful and dangerous cut-off period for many pregnant women.
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 state’s from passing laws meant to restrict that access. When informed of the 369 abortion restrictions that have been passed by state legislatures in the last six years, 59 percent of respondents felt that to be the wrong direction for the country to head in. 81 percent of respondents stated that they want Congress to make women’s healthcare a priority.
Media Resources: The Hill 9/26/17; CBS News 9/26/17; Guttmacher Institute; Feminist Newswire 8/23/17