On Tuesday, the House will vote on a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), is similar to legislation that Republicans attempted to pass in 2013 and 2015. This time, however, the bill is backed by the White House.
The bill criminalizes second trimester abortions by imposing steep fines or a five-year-maximum prison term for providers who terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks, leaving exceptions for instances of rape or threat to the life of the mother. While 99 percent of abortions do take place in the first 21 weeks, a significant number of women who seek later abortions do so because they learned about their pregnancies late, lack resources or access to healthcare, or learn of a genetic or fetal abnormality detected in the second trimester. In some cases, pregnancies can become complicated and cause health problems for the mother.
House Republicans, however, believe that by passing this bill they will be saving lives. “It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain, and give them a chance to grow and live full and happy lives,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a statement last week. “We have an obligation to speak and defend for those who can’t speak for themselves.” Unfortunately, they do not feel they have an obligation to listen to the millions of women and providers who can speak for themselves, and say that a ban is both medically and morally unsound.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget stated that it “strongly supports” the bill and “applauds” the House “for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections.”
“On the heels of their failure to pass an ACA repeal bill that would have left millions of women without coverage, H.R. 36 takes another wrong turn,” said Dr. Anne Davis, Consulting Medical Director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, in a statement emailed to reporters. “Passing H.R. 36 would mean medical decisions move out of the hands of medical professionals and pregnant people when abortion care is needed.”
Update 10/3/17, 6:04 pm: By a vote of 237 to 189, on Tuesday the bill passed in the House. It will now move to the Senate, where it is less likely to gain the votes necessary to pass.