20 Week Abortion Ban: Don't They Have Anything Better to Do?

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), originally included no exceptions for rape and incest. Now, even after Franks commented that the “incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low,” the bill includes a provision for the allowance of an abortion after rape, only if that rape has been reported to authorities.

As Kate Sheppard reports for Mother Jones citing the Department of Justice statistics, “Less than half of all rapes or sexual assaults are reported to the police.” The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) cited a National Crime Victimization Survey by the Justice Department, which found that “sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, with 54% still being left unreported.” RAINN also found that between 2004 and 2005, 64,080 women were raped. After applying a pregnancy rate of 5% for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse, they estimated there were 3,204 pregnancies resulting from rape during that year. 

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, as the bill is called, claims to be a “symbolic act” considering the unlikely event that it will pass the Senate and the even more unlikely event that President Obama will sign it if it ever reached the White House desk. This is another attempt by conservatives to enact legislation that countermands Roe v. Wade’s ruling of legalized abortions until a fetus is viable, scientifically believed to be at 24 weeks.

The Guttmacher Institute found that the year 2011 had the highest number of reproductive health and rights-related provisions enacted: 135 in 36 states, up from 89 in 2010 and 77 in 2009. Sixty-eight percent of those provisions restrict access to abortion services, including bans similar to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. 

As ThinkProgress reports, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has publicly expressed its opposition to state-level abortion restrictions, which “unduly interfere with patient-physician relationships.” The group says legislations of this nature negatively impact the way doctors can treat their patients and “laws should not interfere with the ability of physicians to determine appropriate treatment options and have open, honest, and confidential communications with their patients.”

One must then still wonder:Why bother? What’s the point? Why are we not focusing our attention on job creation or the economy? 

Our focus should shift, but why not shift to discussions of affordable childcare, considering 69% of women who have abortions are economically disadvantaged? Child Care Aware of America estimates the average annual fees for full-time care for an infant in a center range from $4,600 to $20,200 depending on where you live in the U.S.

Or maybe we could talk about improving access to birth control since 46% of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. And after a report was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology where providing birth control to women at no cost “substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies and cut abortion rates by 62% to 78% over a national rate,” maybe that is something worth looking into. 

Maybe we should go to the doctor to find out how to prevent that cold, instead of going to the hospital with a lung in our hand. 

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Melanie Breault

Melanie Breault just returned from teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. She now works for a women's nonprofit in Downtown NYC. She earned her bachelor's degree in economic and political journalism from Ithaca College in upstate New York. She likes to tackle issues facing marginalized workers and struggling students in her free time.

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