If conservatives were hoping to win over the majority of female voters, they may have just shot themselves in the foot. With an eye on rallying voters before the 2016 elections, making headway with the religious right and pushing an anti-women's rights agenda, Republicans in the House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.
On May 13, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was passed along party lines, 242-184. The bill had been revised since it was initially presented in January, not because of moral concerns or the unfounded medical claims upon which it relies, but to help it pass a vote.
The new bill appeases conservative female Republicans, who refused to stand behind a law requiring women who were raped to file a police report after being sexually assaulted to receive an abortion.
This would have been problematic for many women because the shame and fear associated with sexual assault and rape prevents most incidents from ever being reported.
Punitive, Pointless And Anti-Woman Legislation
Unfortunately, the new bill, which was deemed adequate by female Republicans, still punishes women for choosing to have an abortion. Although women do not need to report their rapes to authorities, they are still required to receive medical attention and counseling 48 hours before the abortion.
This stipulation seems both needless and potentially more problematic. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, mandated counseling “appears to have little impact on birth and abortion rates.”
The Institute's findings also indicate that laws requiring counseling add delays to the abortion procedure, which only makes the process more difficult for the woman and, potentially, the doctor.
Although counseling has a negligible impact upon abortion rates, it has a big impact upon the individual seeking help. The women who are most affected by counseling mandates are poor and low income individuals who must seek child care or travel greater distances to obtain help.
These inhibitors would only further the amount of time it takes for a woman to obtain an abortion.
This legislation also penalizes women who may need abortions for medical reasons.
Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, explains,
Often, women seeking abortions at 20 weeks or later are doing so as a last resort.
Abortions taking place at this stage are often conducted because a parent has detected, according to ThinkProgress, “serious fetal health defects that will severely undermine their child's quality of life.” The choice for an abortion has likely been made after much debate by the parent.
This kind of legislation would only prevent a parent from choosing what might ultimately be more compassionate for the unborn child.
The Underlying Logic… or Lack Thereof
The legislation in question specifies “20 week and after abortions” based upon the unproven medical theory that fetuses feel pain at, and after this point.
This is an idea that doctors can't seem to agree upon. Some argue the cortex, which is undeveloped at 20 weeks, is necessary to feel pain, while others argue the developed thalamus is sufficient to provoke a pain response.
One New York Times article describes the conflict as rooted in “theoretical territory” because “so much about pain is undetermined.”
There's no conclusive scientific evidence that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “protects” a pain-capable child to begin with, which makes such legislation being passed all the more disappointing.
In fact, the legislation could ultimately do more of a disservice to the unborn child. As it stands, the Act would require doctors to resuscitate a fetus if, during the abortion process, it was deemed “viable” outside the womb.
In instances when the abortion takes place because of fetal/child health issues, the law would reverse a “parenting decision” made by the mother on the basis of what she deemed best for her own child. Resuscitation would sentence the child to a lifetime of severe suffering.
How the Bill Even Came to Be
The question remains as to how this type of legislation, which contains extensive medical language “supporting” the unproven idea that a fetus feels pain, could come to pass.
Conservatives' effort to tug at lawmakers' heartstrings without any scientific basis is nothing new. We've seen similar efforts by Republicans in Kansas.
The larger goal is to construct legislation that rallies the religious right. Republicans did it in January, and they continued to do so by revamping the Act to make it viable in the House.
This kind of lawmaking also helps 2016 GOP candidates -- every one of whom has supported the bill -- generate allegiance from staunch conservatives. These are the voters who candidates can rely on to show up on Election Day, the voters they can count on if they simply say and do the “right things.”
Since the bill's approach to rape was first brought up in January, analysts have agreed it addresses one of the core social issues that helps the party “position itself for the 2016 presidential election."
This means we will probably be seeing a lot more conversation about core conservative issues and more bills being ushered through the Republican-controlled House. Fortunately, laws like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act probably won't make it through the Senate; if they do, Obama will likely veto them.
Even if the measure doesn't pass, the language won't become any less disturbing. It also won't help the Republican party look particularly inviting to many modern women, who value the freedom to make choices about their own well- beings and the wellness of their future children.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.
Citations: Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Congress.gov), Reporting of Sexual Violence Incidents (National Institute of Justice), MOST LAWS MANDATING COUNSELING AND WAITING PERIODS BEFORE ABORTION HAVE LITTLE IMPACT (Guttmacher Institute), US House Passes Abortion Ban That Could Challenge Roe V Wade (The Huffington Post), House Republicans Think Theyve Fixed Their 20 Week Abortion Ban (ThinkProgress), Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain (The New York Times), A Peaceful Death (Slate), Kansas New Anti Abortion Law Is a Major Setback for Womens Rights (Elite Daily), Why Is Congress Pushing New Anti Abortion Laws The Answer Is Simple (Forward Progressives ), House Passes a Ban on Abortions After 20 Weeks (The Cut), House Republicans pass watered down antiabortion bill (The Washington Post)