Patriarchy in Action: Abortion Under Attack

On a whim, I decided to have a look through Congress’s repository of legislation currently being considered, and found the following bills. All have only been introduced, but I find them to be rather disturbing. Almost all of the ones I’m highlighting here have to do with abortion, and, of course, banning it. Considering the fact that they all include “exceptions”, I have a feeling that they won’t pass a conservative congress that wants to ban abortion outright, with no exceptions at all.

But they are worth highlighting, regardless…

Let’s start with H.R. 656, the deceptively named Women’s Public Health and Safety Act:

This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act to allow a state to exclude from participation in the state’s Medicaid program a provider that performs an abortion, unless: (1) the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or (2) the woman suffers from a physical issue that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed. (Under current law, a state plan for medical assistance must provide that any individual eligible for medical assistance may obtain required services from any provider qualified to perform them.)

Those exceptions are true throughout all of these anti-abortion measures. That doesn’t make them less wrong, however.

Next is H.R. 684, called the Every Child is a Blessing Act of 2017. The name alone is bad enough. Sadly, there’s no summary, so I’m going to show you some of the text:


(a) General Rule.—Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person may not recover damages in any designated civil action (as defined in subsection (d)) based on a claim that, but for the conduct of the defendant, a child, once conceived, would not or should not have been born.

(b) Application To Certain Claims.—Subsection (a) applies, among others, to a claim based in whole or in part on disability, defect, abnormality, race, sex, or other inborn characteristic of the child.

(c) Rule Of Construction.—Subsection (a) shall not be construed—

(1) to provide a defense against charges of intentional misrepresentation in any proceeding under State law regulating the professional practices of health care providers and practitioners;

(2) to provide a defense in any criminal action, including cases of rape or incest; or

(3) to limit the recovery of damages in cases where the conduct of the defendant caused personal injury or death to the child or gestational mother.

This one actually doesn’t look too bad, but then most people with uteruses in the US don’t get abortions based on race, and I’ve not heard of a case where someone got an abortion in the US because their unborn child was the wrong sex (although it is possible).

What gets me is “disability, defect, abnormality”. If the unborn child has such a problem that they cannot be guaranteed a life once born (or could even be born dead), why should the person giving birth to child be forced to? Perhaps I’m reading that wrong, but that’s what it looks like to me.

Then we have H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act. There’s no summary for this one, either. Warning, though… the text is kinda long…

Congress finds and declares the following:

(1) Pain receptors (nociceptors) are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization.

(2) By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.

(3) In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response.

(4) Subjection to such painful stimuli is associated with long-term harmful neurodevelopmental effects, such as altered pain sensitivity and, possibly, emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities later in life.

(5) For the purposes of surgery on unborn children, fetal anesthesia is routinely administered and is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli are applied without such anesthesia. In the United States, surgery of this type is being performed by 20 weeks after fertilization and earlier in specialized units affiliated with children’s hospitals.

(6) The position, asserted by some physicians, that the unborn child is incapable of experiencing pain until a point later in pregnancy than 20 weeks after fertilization predominately rests on the assumption that the ability to experience pain depends on the cerebral cortex and requires nerve connections between the thalamus and the cortex. However, recent medical research and analysis, especially since 2007, provides strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.

(7) Substantial evidence indicates that children born missing the bulk of the cerebral cortex, those with hydranencephaly, nevertheless experience pain.

(8) In adult humans and in animals, stimulation or ablation of the cerebral cortex does not alter pain perception, while stimulation or ablation of the thalamus does.

(9) Substantial evidence indicates that structures used for pain processing in early development differ from those of adults, using different neural elements available at specific times during development, such as the subcortical plate, to fulfill the role of pain processing.

(10) The position, asserted by some commentators, that the unborn child remains in a coma-like sleep state that precludes the unborn child experiencing pain is inconsistent with the documented reaction of unborn children to painful stimuli and with the experience of fetal surgeons who have found it necessary to sedate the unborn child with anesthesia to prevent the unborn child from engaging in vigorous movement in reaction to invasive surgery.

(11) Consequently, there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.

(12) It is the purpose of the Congress to assert a compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.

(13) The compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain is intended to be separate from and independent of the compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage of viability, and neither governmental interest is intended to replace the other.

(14) Congress has authority to extend protection to pain-capable unborn children under the Supreme Court’s Commerce Clause precedents and under the Constitution’s grants of powers to Congress under the Equal Protection, Due Process, and Enforcement Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Admittedly I’m not up on my scientific literature about fetuses, but this seems like it’s relying either on pseudo-science or a blatant misreading of scientific material on the topic.

Then we have H.R. 1192, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act of 2017. This one has a summary:

This bill amends the federal criminal code to prohibit a physician from knowingly performing a dismemberment abortion. It provides a definition of the term “dismemberment abortion.”

A physician who performs a dismemberment abortion is subject to a criminal fine, up to two years in prison, or both, unless the dismemberment abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life.

A woman or a parent of a minor who undergoes a dismemberment abortion may file a civil action for damages against an individual who violates this bill.

The legislation bars the criminal prosecution of a woman who undergoes a dismemberment abortion for conspiracy to violate the provisions of this bill, for being a principal or an accessory after the fact, or for concealing a dismemberment abortion.

I may very well be wrong, but aren’t the vast majority of abortions already not performed like this, anyways? It seems rather pointless, frankly. At least it bars the prosecution of a pregnant person who undergoes such an abortion.

All of us need to keep a close eye on the bills getting introduced, and make our voices heard on the ones that should not be allowed out of committee.

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