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US House to consider 20-week abortion ban amidst support, criticism

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, stirring a flurry of both supporters and critics in another battle in one of the nation’s most decisive issues.

This battle, under the title of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has been supported by President Donald Trump and the White House this time however, leading experts to believe the criminalization of 20-week or more abortions could be passed through the House. Support in the Senate could be a tougher fight.

Trump has publically announced his support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in a letter to anti-abortion supporters during his campaign, and on Monday, the White House issued a statement in support of the act.

“The administration strongly supports H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections,” the statement said.

“The bill, if enacted into law, would help to facilitate the culture of life to which our Nation aspires. Additionally, the bill would promote a science-based approach to unborn life, as recent advancements have revealed that the physical structures necessary to experience pain are developed within 20 weeks of fertilization. The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. America’s children deserve the stronger protections that H.R. 36 would advance.”

The national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) also spoke in favor of the ban.

“We are grateful to President Trump, Leader McCarthy, and our pro-life allies in the House of Representatives for championing this compassionate, popular bill. We urge Congress to pass it swiftly,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “The United States is one of only seven nations in the world that allow children in the womb to be killed for any reason up until the moment of birth, putting us in the company of China and North Korea. This bill, which the President has promised to sign, would get us out of that disgraceful club and bring our laws into line with basic human decency.

“Twenty states have passed their own legislation to protect babies at five months, and polls consistently show that a large majority of Americans – women in higher numbers than men – support it. It’s past time for Congress to pass a nationwide law protecting unborn children from the unspeakable cruelty of late-term abortion.”

Trump has made four key commitments to the pro-life movement, including signing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law.

OPPOSITION ARISES

Though the legislation is similar to those in several states, opponents say the 20-week abortion bans are unconstitutional and unfairly target young, lower-income and ethnic women.

Similar legislation is already enacted in several states. But opponents of the legislation argue 20-week abortion bans are unconstitutional.

“Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances. For example, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the woman’s health — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund said online in a statement.

“The 20-week bans are also highly unpopular throughout the country - 61% of all voters say abortion should be legal after 20 weeks. Plus, Democrats (78%), Republicans (62%), and Independents (71%) say this is the wrong issue for lawmakers to be spending time on.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund also called the legislation “dangerous.”

“Both Physicians for Reproductive Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists condemn these bans. (The) 20-week bans criminalize doctors. Politicians shouldn’t have the right to take options away from doctors in dangerous medical situations or prevent them from informing patients about all their health care options.”

Dr. Anne Davis, Consulting Medical Director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, also spoke out against the legislation.

 “Anti-choice politicians are relentless; they continually put up barriers to stop reproductive health care. 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. Passing H.R. 36 would mean medical decisions move out of the hands of medical professionals and pregnant people when abortion care is needed,” Davis said.

 “My colleagues and I who provide abortion care know that every patient is unique, every pregnancy is different. I am called daily to assist women who face these decisions. We must be able to provide the best care throughout pregnancy, including when pregnancies have to end. Interference by politicians, like H.R. 36, makes that good care even harder to access.”

UNFAIRLY TARGETING THE POOR

In the abstract, “Implications of Georgia’s 20-week Abortion Ban,” researchers Sarah C.M. Roberts, Dr. PH, Heather Gould, MPH, and Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH, studied  ways women were affected by a

law enacted in January 2013 that led Georgia providers to stop providing abortion services at 24 weeks past a woman’s last menstrual cycle. They also looked at how women would be affected if Georgia enforced the law banning abortions at 22 weeks.

The results showed that more than half of the women affected were black while one-fourth were white.

Nearly half the women had higher education past high school and had previous live births.

In the article and abstract “Who Seeks Abortions at or After 20 Weeks?,” authored by Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport, researchers found women aged 20–24 were more likely than those aged 25–34 to have a later abortion and women who discovered their pregnancy before eight weeks’ gestation were less likely than others to do so.

Later abortion recipients reported logistical delays like difficulty finding abortion providers or lack of funds for the procedure as the reasons for delays.

Foster is the director of research at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH).

“Later term abortion is a political term, not a medical one. I prefer ‘later abortions’ – ‘later’ because the vast majority (92 percent) of abortions occur in the first trimester. Also, a term pregnancy is 40 weeks so a 20 week abortion isn’t late term,” said Dr. Foster.

“Being late in discovering pregnancy is the leading cause of seeking a later abortion. Young women are more likely than older women to be late in realizing they are pregnancy. This may be because young women are less likely to have been pregnant before; they may have irregular periods that make discovering pregnancy harder; and they may experience fewer other side effects of pregnancy.

“Low income women may be more likely to be delayed in seeking abortion because they need to raise money to pay for the procedure and travel. Nearly half the women (46%) in our study of women who were denied wanted abortions reported that they were delayed trying to raise the money needed.”

Gestational age limits will disproportionately affect low income women for three reasons, Foster added.

First, low income women are more likely to be delayed because they need to raise money to pay for the abortion and they are also less likely to be able to afford to travel to get an abortion elsewhere.

“And finally, being denied an abortion makes it more likely that a woman and her children live below the poverty level. Being denied abortion sets women back financially while abortion allows them to continue on a path toward economic stability.”

The House is expected to vote on HR 36 at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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