Republicans in the House of Representatives are working on a bill that would make the majority of abortions illegal — and it's time to give your representative an earful about it. A six week abortion ban bill is moving forward to a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Nov. 1. And it's troubling: the bill practically amounts to an all out ban on abortion, because it could shut down access before a woman knows she's pregnant.
The Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017 would make it a crime for a doctor to perform the procedure "after determining ... that the fetus has a detectable heartbeat." Women often first learn that they are pregnant when a fetal heart is detected, around six weeks of gestation.
The bill was introduced in January by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). "Since Roe v. Wade was unconstitutionally decided in 1973, nearly 60 million innocent babies' lives have been ended by the abortion industry, all with a rubber stamp by the federal government," he said in a press release at the time.
Reproductive rights groups are already calling out the bill: "[The GOP's] latest crazy, and clearly unconstitutional, idea is a ban that applies to women who don’t even know they’re pregnant yet, intentionally preventing them from accessing care altogether," Sasha Bruce, NARAL Pro-Choice America Senior Vice President, said in a statement.
According to the Pew Research Center, seven out of 10 Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. Roe v. Wade also prohibits laws that ban abortions before about 24 weeks, according to Slate. And about that "rubber stamp" King mentioned? Well, since the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976, federal funds have been prohibited from being used for abortion anyway.
Nevertheless, King's bill isn't the first severe bill that's gone through Congress recently — as in the past few weeks.
Earlier in October, House Republicans voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act banned abortion on the basis that the fetus could feel pain after this gestation period, which is pretty much based on junk science. The bill has yet to go through the Senate, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised it will get a vote.
And King's own comments have run the gamut from xenophobic to callously insensitive about the health care needs of women.
When GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin said in 2012 that women rarely got pregnant from “legitimate rape," King praised him as a "strong Christian man." King in 2011 also supported changing Medicaid so it wouldn't support the procedure in cases of incest and statutory rape, and it doesn't end there.
In March of 2017, he posted a tweet saying that "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," which many took to mean that U.S. citizens — aka white people — were not having babies fast enough, a comment that was a dog whistle to white supremacists. And King has been a harsh critic of the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate, which requires employers to cover birth control. To that, he said "Why should I care?"
King's not alone on pushing against reproductive rights. The Trump administration recently got rid of that same birth control mandate, meaning that hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to birth control without co-payments, according to The New York Times.
Though Nov. 1 marks only a hearing for the bill — not a vote — it's important to step up now to let lawmakers know this is unacceptable. It's doubly important if your representative is a member of the House Judiciary Committee holding the hearing (you can find a list of members here).
To get the started, you'll need to find out who your representative is. You can do that on this website, then navigate to their page and find their specific contact information. It might be tempting to send an email, but according to congressional staffers, it's better to call. If you already know your representative, you can also call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to connect that way.
Given that you'll likely get an aide, or a message machine depending when you call, or if you want to avoid an awkward phone chat altogether, it's not a bad idea to write a script for yourself. You can say your name, zip code, that you're a constituent and that you're against H.R. 490, the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, and want them to oppose it, too.
This bill is hardly the last time Republicans will come for women's access to reproductive healthcare. But letting them know that they can't stand in the way of a constitutional right is as easy as picking up your cell phone.