5 Compelling Moments From The Abortion Ban Debate That Highlighted How Controversial The Bill Is
The House on Wednesday passed a bill that would instill a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life. Floor debate on the highly contentious bill was emotionally charged and volatile. Lawmakers on both sides of the abortion issue clashed on the definition of “viability” laid out in Roe v. Wade, which accepted the definition of viability to be at the start of the third trimester, or at 24 weeks. At one point House Speaker John Boehner R-OH was in tears. Following the vote, bill sponsor Ohio Republican Trent Franks tweeted that the hashtag #theyfeelpain, the hashtag behind the bill known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was trending on Twitter.
And it’s no surprise the debate was so emotional. The 20-week abortion ban bill has had a long, strange ride to passage that began when it was abruptly yanked off the floor in January after Republican lawmakers called foul over some of the language, allegedly worried that some of the bill's provisions might alienate women voters. Now, instead of a provision requiring rape victims to report their assault to law enforcement, there is a provision that would require rape survivors to wait 48 hours and undergo medical treatment or counseling before being permitted to have a late-term abortion.
There were several moments throughout the debate on the House floor that stood out as particularly notable. Here are the five most compelling moments from the 20-week abortion ban debate.
Rep. Jackie Speier's Personal Presentation
California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier tackled one of the bill’s major pain points, the 48-hour waiting period. In a highly charged statement where she donned a white coat and accused lawmakers of trying to be physicians, Speier revealed the painful circumstances of her two abortions. After being pregnant for 10 weeks, Speier was told the fetus no longer had a heartbeat, and she had to wait a couple of days to have an abortion. The California Democrat weighed in on what she felt was the absurdity of the 48-hour requirement in a situation such as hers:
I had just lost this baby that I wanted. And you’re going to make me carry around a dead fetus for two days?
Although neither of Speiers' abortions were late-term, her anecdotes reveal how a seemingly well-meaning legislative safeguard such as a 48-hour wait period translate into traumatic situations. Speiers said:
Women that go through this experience go through so much pain and anguish, and here we are, as members of this body, trying to don another white coat.
Rep. Trent Franks' Loaded Quote
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks has led the charge in pushing the 20-week abortion ban bill for a vote on the House floor. He called the rights of “little, pain-capable” babies neither a Republican or Democrat issue on the floor, despite a subsequent vote on mostly party lines. He argued that fetuses at 20 weeks of pregnancy are capable of feeling pain was a fact “without question, even though the claim has been disputed. He said on the floor, "It really is a test of our basic humanity and who we are as a human family."
House Speaker John Boehner's Tears
The House Speaker is known for tearing up on the floor, but his tears — followed by the statement that the bill was the "most pro-life legislation" that has come before the House — were sure to strike a chord with activists on both sides of the abortion debate. The simple statement serves as a reminder of how the anti-abortion wing within Congress is only growing and becoming more vocal in the years since the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision. The House has more Republicans in 2015 than it did in 2013, the last time it passed a less detailed version of the 20-week abortion ban bill with 14 fewer "yes" votes than it had in 2015.
And the new 20-week abortion ban bill may make more headway in 2015 than it did in 2013, when a Republican-controlled Senate arises as a game-changer. According to The Washington Post, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed to bring the 20-week abortion ban bill to the floor. That being said, Senate passage or not, the bill is likely headed straight for a veto upon arrival at the White House.
Rep. Mia Love's Surprise Speech
Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love made history this year by being the first black female Republican in Congress. According to her remarks, she hadn't even planned to speak on the House floor that day but was moved to do so after watching the debate from her office. A highly vocal opponent of abortion, Love's arguments in the abortion debate are a clear indicator of where the GOP is headed. She said on the floor, "I was disappointed that there's even opposition to this legislation."
Rep. Lois Frankel's Succint Remarks
Florida Democrat Rep. Lois Frankel delivered a short but effective takedown of the recent wave of legislation aimed at curtailing women's reproductive health rights. "Mr. Speaker, enough is enough," Frankel said.
Another painful piece of legislation inflicted on the women of this country by people who don't believe we are smart enough or moral enough to make our own life-changing decisions.