The War on Women Just Ramped Up
The “War on Women” was something we heard a lot back in the early 2010s, when the GOP took Congress back from the Democrats and seemed to redouble their efforts to prevent American women from accessing any kind of meaningful reproductive healthcare. Since then, it’s been a steady onslaught of TRAP laws, anti-choice legislation and thinly-veiled attempts to reduce women to nothing more than incubators; however, this week has been particularly damaging to reproductive rights, even by modern standards.
On Tuesday, House Republicans passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Sponsored by Arizona’s very own Representative Trent Franks, picked up for a Senate vote by Lindsay Graham and supported by the Trump administration, the bill would make the procedure illegal and punishable by fines and jail time. Dubbed the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” not only does it prevent women from seeking medically-necessary and Constitutionally-protected care, it also peddles the common falsehood that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.
Fetal pain is a common argument raised by anti-abortion activists, but has little basis in scientific fact. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has firmly stated that the nervous system development required to register pain does not occur in a fetus until at least around 24 weeks’ gestation.
With no medical evidence to support their claims, fetal pain is merely another propaganda tool meant to deprive women of their right to reproductive care. And while the bill makes exceptions in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity, they come with caveats that would only serve to further harm a woman who has already experienced an incredibly traumatic experience:
In the case of rape, the abortion may proceed only if the woman “has received medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours prior…or if she has reported the rape to law enforcement.”
In cases of incest involving a minor, the incident must have been reported to social services or law enforcement.
In all cases, the abortion is required to be performed in a manner that would ensure the best possible outcome for the fetus, unless doing so would result in significant harm to the mother. To translate: the health and well-being of the fetus is placed above the physical and mental well-being of the mother.
Any while a woman should be free to choose an abortion at any point, it is important to note that the majority of women who are seeking an abortion at or after 20 weeks are doing so out of medical necessity. According to Planned Parenthood, 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks, and those performed at later stages are usually due to fetal abnormalities that could not have been detected earlier. This dangerous and ignorant legislation would accomplish nothing other than to cause further pain and suffering for women who have either experienced significant trauma, or are having to make the gut-wrenching choice of saying goodbye to a wanted child due to medical reasons.
As if this were not enough bad news for the week, the Trump administration displayed a rare instance of follow-through when it announced that it would be rolling back the ACA-mandated coverage for contraception, and then did so on Friday. Under the guise of religious liberty, the administration has now revoked access to a necessary and life-saving medication for more than 55 million women by allowing employers to opt out of birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. And, in a throwback to 1950s-era stereotypes, claimed that it was doing so to avoid “health risks” presented by certain contraceptives, as well as “risky sexual behavior” that would accompany the freedom such medication provided to teenagers and young adults.
With the 20-week abortion ban unlikely to pass in the Senate, and the contraception rollback likely to be caught up in litigation for years to come, these moves by our Republican lawmakers should be called what they are: blatant pandering to an increasingly-small minority of voters, and lacking in any basic understanding of medical science or empathy for women, particularly low-income women and women of color. And while Congress is unable to vote on the contraceptive rollback, please reach out to John McCain and Jeff Flake to register your opposition to the 20-week ban, and research pro-choice candidates who will be running for local and national positions in 2018. Because until the GOP is out of power, these attacks will continue, and with the support of the White House, will likely be successful.
John McCain: 202-224-2235
Jeff Flake: 202-224-4521