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With the possibility of a second government shutdown looming, the U.S. Senate on Monday afternoon focused its attention not on immigration or any other practical budgetary matter, but instead channeled its energy into an effort to curtail the reproductive rights of millions of women. Specifically, the Senate convened on January 29 to consider S.2311, which would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, with narrow exception, and would threaten prison time for physicians who fail to comply with the law’s myriad requirements. There is “no federal law protecting these young lives from abortion,” Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a vocal and strident abortion foe, told her colleagues from the floor. As a result, she said, thousands of lives every year are ended in pain. “This is unacceptable.” The measure, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, rests on the idea that beginning at 20 weeks gestation a fetus can experience pain, and thus is tortured by abortion — a heavily disputed notion that rests on weak medical foundation. Although the enumerated legislative findings preceding the bill’s text suggest that a fetus can feel pain in the same way that a child or adult experiences pain, this claim is not medically accepted. The bill’s author is Sen. Lindsey Graham, and 43 of the 45 co-sponsors are men. Under the bill, women would be barred from seeking to terminate a pregnancy from the 20th week, except where the termination is necessary to save the life of the woman, “endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury” including life-threatening conditions “caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” The text does not include an exception for “psychological or emotional conditions.” The bill would also carve out an exception for pregnancy arising from rape or incest, but only if the woman has obtained medical treatment or counseling in connection with the assault. In the case of minors the assault must have been reported to child welfare authorities or to police. And even if those hurdles are cleared the proposed law would require the abortion doctor to perform the procedure “only in the manner which … provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive” — meaning by avoiding the most common and safest form of later-term abortion. Lawmakers in a number of states have tried to ban that procedure, known as dilation and evacuation, but have been blocked from doing so by the courts. Aside from the questionable science and logic underpinning the measure, however, there are other problems with the bill — beginning with the fact that it would fly in the face of Roe v. Wade and other decisions that affirm a woman’s fundamental right to choose abortion before fetal viability, generally considered to begin at roughly 24 weeks. Beyond the constitutional problem, there are also practical considerations that make the bill an ill-considered one, not the least of which is that many life-threatening fetal abnormalities aren’t detectible until later in pregnancy. Meanwhile, the relentless passage by a number of states of unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on abortion access have also served to delay a woman’s ability to access services in a timely manner and to increase the cost of care — onerous restrictions that hit poor and minority women particularly hard — and can force a woman to carry a pregnancy for a longer term than she might want to. In short, the measure is not only unnecessary, but also dangerous. “This is yet another attempt to undermine women’s health and decision making that won’t stand up in a court of law, or in the court of public opinion,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement. “This bill is both unconscionable and unconstitutional.” It isn’t the first time Congress has floated such a measure. It was first introduced in 2012, but would have applied only to the District of Columbia. A second try, floated in 2013, was national in scope but contained no exemptions for rape, incest, or a woman’s health. It passed the House, but was never voted on in the Senate. The House again passed such a measure in 2015, but the bill was blocked by the Senate. The House in October 2017 once again took it up and passed the measure, leading to today’s consideration by the Senate. Trump has said he would sign the measure should it make it to his desk. Whether the Senate will actually muster the votes to pass the restriction is another thing altogether — the Republicans’ slim majority makes it unlikely. The effort is more political theater than practicality. While 21 states have passed some sort of pre-viability abortion cut-off bill — North Dakota placed its ban at six weeks into pregnancy, at a time when many women aren’t even aware that they are pregnant — in every state where such a measure has been challenged it has been blocked from taking effect, including by the U.S. Supreme Court, which thus far has declined to consider the issue. That hasn’t stopped the states from moving forward, however. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 20-week bans are now pending in seven additional states (Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington) but have yet to gain traction. In his opening comments before the Senate on Monday afternoon, Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden noted that this measure is just one in a long line of assaults on women’s health care, which he called part of Trump’s agenda of “health care discrimination.” Indeed, 2017 was a rough year for parity in women’s health — including the administration’s determination to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its guarantee of access to no-cost contraceptives. When the current legislative session ends, Wyden predicted, the time the body spent “attacking the health care of women will be right up at the top of the list of how this Congress spent their day.” Top photo: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduces the Senate version of the ‘Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ with (L-R) Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), National Right to Life President Carol Tobias other representatives from anti-abortion groups during a news conference in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill October 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The post The Republican War on Women Continues with Yet Another Bill to Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks appeared first on The Intercept.
An expected procedural vote in the Senate on a 20-week abortion ban highlights the need for the public to vote in November’s midterms.
Although 59 percent of US adults say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it remains one of the most divisive issues in America: Not a week passes without headlines chronicling attempts at every level of government to deny or defend women’s reproductive rights. Over the past five years, hundreds of incremental changes in state laws have slowly chipped away at women’s reproductive rights. And with the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, we are closer than ever to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Yet in the months since Trump was elected and Republicans took control of all three branches of government, women (and men) have stepped up to be heard, from the very day after the inauguration, when millions marched in protest, to the current #MeToo moment, in which thousands are breaking their silence and speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse. So, too, have women vehemently demonstrated against the latest attempts by conservatives to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and legislate further restrictions. Which is why we’re posting a new video series, NO CHOICE, to remind us just what the United States was like before abortion was legal, when abortions were dangerous, traumatic and often deadly, and how Roe v. Wade made a difference. Here, women share their personal stories. They’re speaking up to combat the stigma that still surrounds their choice, to remind people of the way things used to be and to bring awareness to the barriers that still exist, especially for poor women and women of color. Listen to these brave women — and one male doctor — tell their stories, and think about what America would be like for men and women if Roe v. Wade were no longer the law of the land: if there were NO CHOICE. Gaylon Alcaraz grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended a Catholic girls school where she didn’t receive comprehensive sex education. She was 17 years old when she first became pregnant. She knew she was not ready to become a mother, so she had an abortion. Today Gaylon, a mother of two, is a reproductive justice activist fighting for the women in her community. This is her story. In the 1950s, Dr. Waldo Fielding was an obstetrician working at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. He remembers women from the community coming to him — many terrified they would be reported — with complications from backroom abortions. After Roe, he remembers the protestors at his Boston clinic and the harassment women endured just to access medical care. This is his story. When Lynne Hanley was studying English at Cornell, she fell in love. When she tried to get contraception, she was told she had to be married to get it. After she realized she was pregnant, she went to a local doctor who lectured her, telling her she would be punished if she tried to end her pregnancy. This is her story. Today, Danielle Lang is a voting-rights attorney. But at the age of 22, when she was studying for law school, she became pregnant because of a contraception failure. She and her partner felt they were not ready to be parents. After her abortion, Danielle found herself confronting the stigma surrounding her choice. This is her story. When Valerie Peterson became pregnant with her third child, her doctor told her the child wasn’t developing properly. The grim diagnosis meant Valerie had a choice to make. She could carry the pregnancy to term and deliver a stillborn baby, or she could have an abortion. Living in Texas, Valerie faced access and scheduling restrictions that made her decision to end the pregnancy much more difficult than she anticipated. This is her story. Marge Piercy is 81 years old. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Detroit. In 1953, during her freshman year of college, she fell in love. In those days, contraception was illegal in most states, and it was certainly illegal for unmarried women. She had dreams of becoming a writer. She didn’t want to have a baby. This is her story. Today, Holly Alvarado is a proud US military veteran. But in 2009, as she was getting ready to leave for a tour of duty in Iraq, she realized she was pregnant. She wanted to end the pregnancy and deploy with her team, but she couldn’t get an abortion from a military doctor because of a federal law restricting military abortions. This is her story. Liz Young was the first person in her family to go to Berkeley. While there during the free speech movement of the early 1960s, she experienced new freedoms and political ideas that she had not encountered in her sheltered traditional Chinese upbringing. At the age of 22 she accidentally became pregnant, and found herself in the underground world to get an abortion. This is her story.