Antiabortion advocates stage a “die-In” protest in Washington as part of an annual demonstration on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The congressional vote was timed to coincide with the rally. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Late Wednesday night, Republican Congressional leaders announced that they would be dropping the planned Thursday vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which, if implemented, would have instilled a nationwide ban on all abortions after week 20 of a pregnancy.
The Washington Post reports that the vote was abandoned largely because of the failure of many Republican women to support the proposed bill — Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), had raised concerns about public fallout among female and younger voters.
Since its introduction during the first day of the new congressional session, the bill has been the source of great controversy and public outcry, including from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, had explained that the bill was necessary to prevent “defenseless children” from being “torturously killed without even basic anesthetic.” Research has shown, however, that a fetus is not able to sense pain until the beginning of the third trimester, or 28 weeks, at the earliest.
Late-term abortion is typically done only in instances such as the discovery of debilitating conditions in the fetus — many of which would make survival outside of the womb impossible — or when the life of the mother is at risk; in fact 99 percent of abortions are conducted before the 21st week of pregnancy.
It is most likely because of this that bans on such types of procedures are hugely unpopular with the American public.
A recent poll conducted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America showed that 60 percent of registered voters support access to abortion at 20 weeks. The same poll showed that an even higher number of voters of both parties believe that bans on reproductive rights are the wrong issue for Congress to be prioritizing and pursuing, with 62 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of Independents saying that “this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on.”
Additionally, a coalition of religious leaders issued a public statement yesterday evening stating its opposition to the proposed legislation. In its statement, the Clergy Advocacy Board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said, “As clergy representing diverse denominations and faith traditions, we find common ground in our respect for a woman’s ability to make her own personal health care decisions without political or government intrusion. We oppose restrictions on abortion designed to shame and judge women, including those currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. We believe that legislation should be based on science and medicine, not dictated by religious ideology. We believe that politicians should not be allowed to make the restrictions of one faith against the law for everybody. Ultimately a decision about abortion is a matter between a woman, her conscience, and her God — not politicians.”
While the vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act has been dropped, Congressional leadership has elected to vote on another abortion bill in its place Friday, H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which seeks to end the coverage of abortion services by private insurance companies. (A ban on public funding for abortion is already in effect, with exceptions only for rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at risk.)
Regarding the dropping of the vote on a nationwide ban of abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy for a seemingly more innocuous antiabortion bill, Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement, “It’s appalling that the top priority of some members of Congress is to insert politics into women’s health. These attacks are so dangerous, extreme, and unpopular that House Republicans can’t even get their membership lined up behind them. This should be an important message to politicians who continue to ignore the majority of the public who want Congress to focus on policies to move women forwards rather than taking them back.”
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