Republican Dissent Killed Controversial House Abortion Bill, but Clones Emerge in State Legislatures

Monday, January 26, 2015
Ultrasound of 20-week-old fetus

House Republicans showed a glimmer of good sense last week, killing a proposed bill that would have restricted abortions after 20 weeks since conception. The bill was considered too extreme even for some House Republican women and was in direct opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision that allows for women to have abortions for a longer post-conception period. But the House’s unfinished business is being continued by several states that have passed similar limits on the procedure.


Thirteen states, mostly in the South and Midwest, have 20-week limits on the books. Another state, New Mexico, had its 20-week limit overturned in the courts and Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina have introduced legislation that would codify a 20-week limit, according to Tara Culp-Ressler of ThinkProgress.


The 20-week limits have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who often don’t seek medical attention for their pregnancies until they’re farther along, and then have more trouble scraping up the money for an abortion if that’s what they decide to do. Other women, particularly younger ones with irregular menstrual cycles, sometimes don’t realize they’re pregnant until farther down the line. In addition, there are few exceptions in the laws for cases of fetal abnormalities, so women are sometimes forced to carry a child to term who has no chance of living outside the womb.


The laws are based on the scientifically questionable notion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Although there’s no factual basis to this assertion, abortion opponents use it to restrict the procedure as much as possible.


“They’re introducing bans in states as early as six weeks,” Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, told NPR. “They're introducing them at 12 weeks. And they would like us to believe that a 20-week ban is therefore then reasonable. It is not.”


House Republicans, who had planned to introduce the 20-week bill last Thursday as a gift to anti-abortion protesters in Washington for their annual protests against Roe, were able to come up with a consolation prize. They passed a bill that would make permanent the Hyde amendment, which now must be reauthorized every year to ban federal funding of abortions.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

States Continue Push to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks (by Jennifer Ludden, NPR)

Congress Rejected a 20-Week Abortion Ban, but These States Didn’t (by Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress)

Republicans Pulled a Classic Bait-And-Switch With Abortion Bill (by Dana Milbank, Washington Post)

Republican State Legislators Pass 40 Laws Restricting Abortion in First Half of 2013 (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

North Dakota Beats Arkansas for Most Extreme Anti-Abortion Bill (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

House Republicans Try to Redefine “Rape” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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