A bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide was approved by the House Judiciary Subcommittee yesterday. The bill, sponsored by Trent Franks (R-AZ), who is also the chair of the subcommittee, originally applied only to the District of Columbia and would have banned abortion at 20 weeks gestation with exceptions only to save the woman’s life. 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.
The all-male subcommittee approved the bill along party lines in a vote of six to four. Opponents of the bill took issue with the fact that there were no women or medical professionals on the subcommittee to consider the legislation. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) objected to the bill saying, “It is totally out of order for us to determine a medical question like this under the guise of acting as members of the very vital House Judiciary Committee… No good has ever come from an all-male committee deciding the law about a woman’s body. This is not appropriate.” Ted Deutch (D-FL) echoed Conyer’s sentiments, saying that it was “hard for people to take” a group of men making medical decisions for women. He continued, “To insert a role of politics in all this, in what for [some parents] has gone from the greatest exulation they may have felt as a married couple to the depths of despair at learning they have found themselves in a situation [where] they have to make that painful decision, is just not what we should be doing.”
The bill now goes before the full House Judiciary Committee. Though a hearing or vote has not been scheduled yet, the chairman of the committee is Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who has a consistent anti-choice voting record.