Amended 20-Week Abortion Ban Is Not Fixed, Despite What House Republicans Say
House Republicans just aren't giving up on restricting women's access to abortions, even if a woman is a victim of sexual assault or rape. After their last bill was shot down for language concerning rape survivors, Republicans say they've fixed the 20-week abortion ban and that it will come to a new vote this week, according to Think Progress. In reality, the language Republicans are calling a "fix" is a less-menacing version of its previous self — there hasn't been much of a real change.
The previous language of the "pain-capable" abortion bill would have required women to have reported their rape to police in order to be eligible for an abortion after 20 weeks, according to Roll Call. Now, the new, "fixed" language says rape survivors can only get around the ban if they seek counseling or medical care within 48 hours of the procedure. BUT, here's the kicker, if they receive either of those services — counseling or medical care — from an abortion clinic, then it doesn't count, according to Think Progress. Putting any kinds of stipulations or requirements on rape victims makes things even more difficult, coupled with the fact that reporting is already horrifically low.
Further, though, critics are already saying that this requirement looks a lot like the mandatory counseling or waiting period rules that dozens of states already have. The Guttmacher Institute conducted a study about state-developed abortion counseling materials and found that they are often filled with medical misinformation and bias. According to the study:
In some cases, the state goes so far as to include information that is patently inaccurate or incomplete, lending credence to the charge that states' abortion counseling mandates are sometimes intended less to inform women about the abortion procedure than to discourage them from seeking abortions altogether.
Further, laws that require mothers to undergo counseling or medical "advice" prior to late-term abortions are often demeaning and traumatizing, according to a TIME article, which evaluated a Texas law that requires women to have ultrasounds before the procedure.
The new version of this bill also continues "fetal pain" rhetoric and often weighs it against the woman's right to choose, according to Think Progress. Fetal pain rhetoric often relies on studies that don't even apply to the abortion debate. Last year, The New York Times spoke with a number of scientists who have done studies on fetal pain and found that:
Scientists with varying views of pain development said they did not consider their work applicable to fetal-pain laws or the highly charged abortion debate.
Even when patients meet the long list of approved exemptions, the bill says doctors performing the procedure “may do so only in the manner which, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.” If the fetus has the “potential to survive outside the womb,” the doctor will be required to call in another physician who’s trained in neonatal resuscitation and who is required to attend the procedure in case the fetus needs to be rushed to the hospital. The woman undergoing the abortion would also be required to sign a consent form acknowledging that her doctors will make an attempt to allow the fetus to be born alive.
Let's put aside the fact that this totally disregards the mother's decision and her personal autonomy and look at all of these requirements on the procedure. More physicians and access to a local hospital means abortions will be more expensive. Increased medical regulations on abortion doctors in Texas is what caused half of its clinics to close, according to NPR. And now, House Republicans want to impose those kinds of restrictions nationally.
Further, Think Progress points out that these restrictions on doctors are asking questions about fetal viability that were already dealt with by the Supreme Court. According to RH Reality Check, the Court didn't specify when fetal viability occurs, legally, during Roe v. Wade. That decision is left to trained physicians. In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, the Court reinforced that argument:
We recognized in Roe that viability was a matter of medical judgment, skill, and technical ability, and we preserved the flexibility in the term.
State or federal bans on abortion at any time — even after 20 weeks — are thus unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade hasn't been overturned, nor has the 40 years of case law where the Court said that doctors, not political representatives or religious advocates, are to determine fetal viability.
Images: Getty Images (3)