Politics Reproductive Rights

House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban Limiting Access for Rape Survivors

The House passed a 20-week abortion bill yesterday, making it plain that House Republicans feel that denying women access to abortion care is one of their top three priorities.


HR 36,  is a restrictive 20-week abortion ban that would force rape survivors seeking abortion care to either report the crime to authorities if under 18 years of age, or if over 18 years old, seek medical care or counseling at least 48 hours prior to having an abortion. There is no exception to the requirement to report rape or incest for minors.

242 members of the House voted in favor of the bill, including Democratic representatives Peterson (ND), Cuellar (TX), Langevin (RI), and Lipinski (IL), while184 members of the House, including Republicans Dold (IL), Frelinghuysen (NY), and Hanna (NY), voted against it.

This bill was brought to the House floor in January, but House Republicans were forced to pull the bill just before midnight due to concerns from Republican women about reporting requirements for rape and incest survivors. Although sponsors of the bill claim that these concerns have been addressed, HR 36 still includes immensely onerous steps for women seeking abortion care to go through. The bill includes a requirement that a minor seeking an abortion as the result of rape or incest report the crime to “an appropriate law enforcement agency,” ignoring the reality that many under 18 years old who have experienced rape or incest, and has many worried that this unnecessary provision may cause further trauma.

This bill places severe limitations on those over 18 years of age seeking an abortion past 20 weeks, specifically poor women or women who live in rural areas. In the case of rape, a woman is required to report the crime to authorities. The only other option for a rape survivor seeking abortion care under this restrictive bill is for the woman to seek medical attention or counseling at least 48 hours before their procedure at a location other than where they plan to have their procedure. This requires seeking two separate provider s- one for medical attention or counseling and one for an abortion – and is expensive, unrealistic, and overly burdensome.

Although the overwhelming majority of voters, both Democrats and Republicans alike, feel that this is the wrong issue for Congress to be spending its time on, Republicans in Congress have made it clear from the beginning of the year that limiting women’s access to comprehensive health and reproductive care is a top priority. House Speaker John Boehner referred to this 20-week ban as one of the most important priorities for Congress.

Media Resources: Congress.gov House Bill 36; Planned Parenthood; Cincinnati 3/25/15

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