Update: The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks nationwide.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bans abortion procedures after 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life. Those who attempt or perform an abortion could face a fine and up to five years in prison. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if the bill becomes law it will add $175 million to the federal deficit over the next decade due to an increase in the number of births across the country.
The bill will now move on to the Senate, where it's unlikely to have enough support. (It had already passed the House in 2013 and 2015, but both times failed in the Senate.) However, President Trump signaled Tuesday that he would sign the bill into law if it passed Congress.
"It’s unfathomable that two days after the worst mass shooting in modern American history, with Americans clamoring for action to make our families safe, and millions of Americans in Puerto Rico living without electricity or safe drinking water, the GOP-led Congress would instead choose to prioritize this abortion ban that will place women at grave risk," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
She added, "Their complete disregard to govern in a way that matches the priorities of the American people is staggering."
This story was originally published on September 27, 2017.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will be brought to the floor for a vote on Tuesday, October 3. The legislation proposes banning abortion procedures after 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life. At least 17 states already have some kind of 20-week ban, but the House bill would extend it nationwide.
Under the legislation, it would be illegal to attempt or perform an abortion after 20 weeks. Those who violate the rule could face a fine and up to five years in prison.
"Next week, I’m bringing legislation to the House floor that will respect the sanctity of life and stop needless suffering. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized," McCarthy said in a statement. "It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain, and give them a chance to grow and live full and happy lives. We have an obligation to speak and defend for those who can’t speak for themselves."
While McCarthy argues that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, there's no scientific consensus supporting that claim. In fact, most scientists who have studied this issue have concluded they don't believe the fetus' brain develops the neurological wiring to feel pain until at least the third trimester, which starts at around 28 weeks after conception.
According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.3% of all abortions "performed in the United States were after 20 weeks' gestation." But while terminating a pregnancy at 20 weeks may not be very common, this type of ban would force thousands of women across the nation to carry pregnancies that are not viable.
In 2015, the bill passed in the House but was blocked by Senate Democrats. The legislation is supported by anti-choice groups and President Trump. It's expected that it will pass again in the House, though it's unlikely to find the same support in the Senate.
This week, the latest GOP healthcare bill, which many considered the most dangerous to women's health yet, failed in the Senate. But Republicans are continuing to chip away at women's healthcare rights. Banning abortions after 20 weeks has nothing to do with science — and everything to do with controlling women's reproductive choices.