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Jun 04 2013

Federal Abortion Bill Advances

Last week, I received this action alert from CFI’s Office of Public Policy:

Help Defeat Proposals That Would Ban All Abortions in U.S. After 20 Weeks

Rep. Trent Franks is at it again. Last month, the Republican Congressman from Arizona introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would outlaw all abortions in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks — with saving the mother from death being the only exception.

Now, Franks has announced his intention to amend the bill and expand its reach nationwide. That’s right: Rep. Franks wants a nationwide ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The bill has quickly racked up 133 co-sponsors in the House, and has a companion in the Senate, S. 886.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) considers these proposals an outrage and urges members to contact their elected officials in Congress to oppose them.

As you might imagine, I agree with the OPP on this. I’m passing this on now because the Republican majority of the House Judiciary subcommittee assigned to evaluate the bill disagree with me.

All six Republicans on the panel voted in favor of the amendment to expand the bill nationwide. They argued that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a claim that is medically disputed, and suggested that the Supreme Court might eventually come around to their side on the abortion issue. Franks challenged the notion that his bill is part of what the Democrats have called a Republican “war on women.”

Late-term abortions “have been happening hundreds of times every single day for decades in America,” he said. “Those who incomprehensibly call trying to change this a ‘war on women’ overlook the fact that roughly half of these babies that are so torturously killed each day are just little tiny women.”

All four Democrats on the committee voted against it.

It should be telling that this bill is being propped up with lies. It relies on the justification of fetal pain, which is absolutely not an established scientific fact. It relies on the idea that hundreds of these procedures happen each day. In 2008, we’re looking at around 50 per day, one per state. It relies on the idea that any abortion that happens after that time is frivolous. They are not.

Reasons given for later abortions in 1987 (more than one reason may apply in any one abortion):

71% Woman didn’t recognize she was pregnant or misjudged gestation
48% Woman found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
33% Woman was afraid to tell her partner or parents
24% Woman took time to decide to have an abortion
8% Woman waited for her relationship to change
8% Someone pressured woman not to have abortion
6% Something changed after woman became pregnant
6% Woman didn’t know timing is important
5% Woman didn’t know she could get an abortion
2% A fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy
11% Other

These results are old and reflect all abortions after week 16, but the results of a 2005 study limited to later abortions are generally the same. Pregnant people aren’t just waiting around, pregnant, because these things are easy.

It should also be telling that none of the reasoning given by supporters of this bill refer to the reasons why pregnant people choose to stop being pregnant. They don’t even acknowledge that the bill affects women. Franks completely deflects that idea by saying that half of terminated fetuses are “little tiny women”, while ignoring that almost 100% of the people directly adversely affected by the bill (exactly 100%, I would presume, from his perspective) are women. But they’re invisible to him. The pain of labor and even of carrying a late-term fetus are also ignored, hidden behind the putative pain of the fetuses.

It’s a war on women, Representative Franks, because you keep insisting on rolling over our territories, our bodies, as though we weren’t even there.

So, back to the action alert. This bill is now with the full Judiciary Committee. Because the House is Republican-controlled, so is the committee. If your representative is on the committee, get on their case now.

Yes, that applies even if your representative is a Republican. It’s not an accident that Franks mentioned the war on women. It hurt Republicans in the last election. It cost some of them their seats. They know it can happen this time too. Refer to it. Tell them it isn’t acceptable. Tell them you and other women are watching and involved.

Yes, contact even your Democratic representative. Yes, even if you know they’re strong on abortion rights. Abortion is famously an area in which Democrats have “compromised” by allowing measures short of all-about bans to proceed. And even those representatives who are protective of abortion rights can use the numbers right now. “X constituents have called/email me on this. The outrage on this bill is steep” is a handy thing to have in the back pocket when trying to persuade fellow committee members.

Yes, contact them now. It is much easier to kill a bill in committee than it is on the floor of the House. And if we get this committee to understand, now, that supporting this kind of bill will have unwanted consequences, then we can turn our attention to other matters all the sooner.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Funny Diva

    It relies on the idea that 20 weeks plus one day is LATE in the pregnancy, rather than being still solidly SECOND TRIMESTER…

    It relies on the idea that once a woman “gets herself pregnant” (and goes a bit over half term) she forfeits any and all bodily autonomy to the needs of the developing fetus…(never MIND that early abortions are ALSO difficult-to-impossible to get in many places, courtesy of Rep. Franks’s fellow travelers…)

    At least the Democrats on the committee all upheld one of their cherished party planks…for once.

    Representative Franks is a disgrace to his office and a disgrace to humanity. “What War on Women? YU be so meaaaaaan to us, calling it a war on wimmin?”

  2. 2
    Blueaussi

    Funny how all that concern for the fetus stops at delivery. These are the same jerks who are cutting education and social welfare programs that would do wonders preventing post-labor fetal pain.

  3. 3
    maddog1129

    And putting so many stumbling blocks in place that purposely delay a woman’s access to services in the first place. Want an abortion? You have to wait. You waited? No abortion for you. Nice little catch-22 they got going there!!

  4. 4
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    The worst part of this bill is it doesn’t even discount non-viable fetuses.

    Representative Franks wants women to carry a baby that will die after being born. He wants a woman to have to go through the trauma of seeing a (almost always) wanted baby die moments, hours, days after being born, with no chance to live.

    How fucking horrible is that?! That’s monstrous!

  5. 5
    michaelbusch

    Enacting and enforcing such legislation wouldn’t change the rate of abortions after 20 weeks gestational age – it would just send many of the women who need them to unsafe providers. And then roughly one woman would die every week as a result. He’s proposing that there should be fifty extra bodies on the deck every year, and Franks claims this isn’t a “war on women”.

  6. 6
    freemage

    Okay, so I decided to do some digging. I agree, it would be better for this bill to die in committee. Unfortunately, that means that at least three Republicans need to go against the amendment (they currently have a 5-vote advantage to the Democrats).

    Sadly, a quick look at OnTheIssues has made it clear that the vast majority of these (all-white, all-male, all-Christian) Republicans are completely beyond reason on the issue. There’s one (Mark Amodi) who is actually on the record supporting abortion rights. Other than that, though…

    Two of them seem to have at least some degree of approachability. John Howard and Darrell Issa both went contrary to the pro-life folks on the issue of stem-cell research. (Seriously, that’s our lifeline, here.) So, if we’re gonna make any kind of successful appeal, these are the two to push the hardest (as well as giving Amodi as much support as possible for his stated, “abortion should always be legally available” position).

  7. 7
    freemage

    That should be Mark Amodei, not Amodi.

  8. 8
    michaelbusch

    One note, in case anyone wants to contact representatives other than the ones representing the district they live in:
    _
    Most of the representatives have contact forms on their websites, but will only take emails if you give a physical address in their district. But they will take faxes from anyone. Since none of the representatives concerned are from any district I can plausibly claim residency in, I just faxed letters to the DC offices of a couple of them.

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