With everything that's going on this week, Congress (being Congress) decided it would be a great time to try to pass some more abortion restrictions. It's resuscitating a bill that failed to pass in January; the measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks for almost everyone. Some of the bill's language on rape and incest survivors is so extreme, even some Republicans couldn't get on board last time.
The bill, which is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is based on a combination of widely debunked assertions about fetal pain and viability, and it could make it virtually impossible for women to humanely end pregnancies that have gone horribly wrong due to fetal abnormalities or illnesses. It could also, as Think Progress reports, scare doctors away from performing the medical procedure for fear of legal prosecution. The bill only allows sexual assault survivors access to abortions beyond 20 weeks after a 48-hour waiting period. Survivors of incest would only be permitted access if they're under 18.
In January, Republicans in Congress had planned to vote on the bill, but they had to postpone after some Republican women objected to its only allowing women to get abortions after 20 weeks under a sexual assault provision if they had filed a report with police. Talking Points Memo also reported that minors who are victims of rape and incest will be allowed exceptions to the ban, but that abortion providers will still be required to report cases to law enforcement.
The current bill's waiting-period provision says that someone must either obtain "counseling" or "medical treatment for the rape or an injury related to the rape" — and then wait a full 48 hours before the abortion.
While the bill has little chance of succeeding — and would be unconstitutional even if it did pass — many states have already passed 20-week bans of their own, plus other laws that have drastically reduced options for women across the country. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 13 states already ban abortions after 20 weeks without a reasonable health exception, and states are considering dozens of other abortion restrictions, including some that would force doctors to lie to their patients. Just last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.
Even if this turns out to be an empty gesture on the part of Republicans at the national level, the real battle over reproductive rights is happening in state houses — on everything from waiting periods to outright bans.
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