Yes, the House Is Still Trying to Ban Abortion

by Abby Johnston

Fact: One in three women will obtain an abortion in her lifetime. Fact: Abortion has been proven as an undoubtedly safe medical procedure. Fact: Much of the legislation aimed at abortion goes way beyond necessary precautions needed to ensure women's safety. So why, in 2015, among all of this science, are we facing yet another hurdle for legal abortions? Ask the U.S. Republican-led House, which is set to vote on a 20-week abortion ban next week.

In the first days of the 2015 session, Reps. Trent Franks and Marsha Blackburn reintroduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill purportedly aimed at protecting fetuses they say can experience sensation at 20 weeks. The measure would shave four weeks from the cutoff guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, which will be celebrating 42 years of existence and subsequent attacks next week. But here's the thing: Fetuses can't feel pain at 20 weeks. Dr. Jamila Perritt, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC, said in a press call:

At 20 weeks, there is no indication that the nerves are developed. It’s not touted in any science.

Joining Perritt on the call, Dr. Hal Lawrence, executive vice president and CEO of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reiterated her statement. Lawrence dismissed this antiquated thought, contending that there is no evidence that a fetus can experience pain before the point of viability at 24 weeks.

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Then why are a significant number of our elected officials dead set on dismantling abortion access? Why are they inserting themselves into the medical profession without any modicum of science at their side? Why have they tried to chip away at Roe v. Wade for the better part of a half-century?

These are all part of the same harmful myths that anti-abortion lawmakers use to scare people into thinking that the procedure is dangerous. They are the same largely accepted lies, wrapped in a guise of protecting women. The GOP doesn't want you to have safe, legal access to abortions, and it has nothing to do with your or your fetus' health. It is only protecting its own ideologies. And much of the medical community, such as Perritt, is tired of the persistent political attacks.

I cannot stand by and let these people who have no place in the exam room stand between me and my patients and the care they need.

On the surface, bills such as the 20-week ban could seem moderate. That is why we've seen 10 state legislatures pass this ban. But Lawrence said that by his estimation, abortions performed at 20 weeks occur less than one percent of the time, and when they are necessary, it is usually done to protect the health of the mother. These are the realities conveniently left out of politicking. These are the protections at stake.

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The 20-week ban is only part of a national and state-level onslaught of bills designed to limit abortion access. Lawrence addressed state legislation requiring that abortion providers upgrade to the status of ambulatory surgical centers, a move that he wholeheartedly assured is unnecessary. It feeds into the tired rhetoric that women need to be protected from the horrors of abortions, including long-term effects. Lawrence swiftly debunked a few myths that anti-abortion organizations and politicians peddle as fact. Because I'm sure you've heard them before, let's take a moment to clear things up.

According to Lawrence, abortion will not:

Make no mistake — these are bills that only want to strip women of fundamental rights. And next week the U.S. House will vote to do just that, on the very day that thousands of anti-abortion supporters will flood DC for the National March for Life. On the very day that these protections were guaranteed 42 years ago.

The endless battle to secure abortion access reminds me of walking into the Texas Capitol the day that Sen. Wendy Davis launched into her now-famous filibuster. It was a sea of orange and blue, the colors of pro-choice and anti-abortion supporters, respectively. A gaggle of white-haired women marched into the marbled rotunda, heads held high and carrying signs. They were all clad in orange. The only thing I could think is that they must be tired of fighting legislation aimed against them after all of these years.

It is my most fervent hope that 50 years from now I won't have to continue this battle.

Images: Getty Images