House Passes Ban On Abortion After 20 Weeks

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 36 on a near party line vote of 237-189. H.R. 36, the so called “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” bans abortions beginning at 20 weeks after fertilization and is a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
H.R. 36 has no health exception and violates Roe v Wade’s central holding that a woman has an absolute constitutional right to have an abortion prior to a fetus’s viability. Roe v Wade and subsequent cases make clear that any regulation of abortion – even after viability – must not pose a substantial risk to the woman’s health. H.R. 36 has a limited exception when the woman’s life is endangered.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. expressed strong opposition to the bill on the House floor, stating in part, “The bill ignores the fact that many serious health conditions often materialize or worsen late in pregnancy, including damage to the heart and kidneys, hypertension, and even some forms of hormone-induced cancer. Yet, by failing to include a health exception, H.R. 36 would force a woman to wait until her condition was nearly terminal before she could obtain an abortion to address her health condition…And, because the bill lacks any exception to protect a woman’s health, it also undermines Roe’s requirement that any regulation of abortion – even after viability – must not pose a substantial risk to a woman’s health.”
The bill’s rape and incest exceptions are inadequate and based on the implicit premise that women who report rape and minors who report rape or incest cannot be trusted. Under this legislation, adult rape survivors must obtain counseling or medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours before obtaining an abortion, and she must provide documentation to be included in her medical file, in order for her to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks. Minors who are victims of rape or incest can obtain an abortion after 20 weeks only if the rape or incest has been reported to law enforcement.
Speaking on the House floor, Conyers said, “The bill’s so-called rape exception ignores the critical challenges rape survivors face and the grim realities of why a rape may go unreported. It also reflects a fundamental distrust of women, namely, that they cannot be trusted to tell the truth or to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families.”
H.R. 36 is opposed by civil liberties groups, women’s organizations, medical providers, and a coalition of 36 national religious groups.
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