On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House GOP Passes Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill
On Wednesday, pro-choice advocates celebrated a major victory: the House GOP dropped plans to debate an anti-bortion bill called the "Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act." The bill, as it stood, aimed to ban abortion after 20-weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape. In such cases, however, women would be required to report the assault to the police. But after two female Republican lawmakers—Reps. Rene Ellmers and Jackie Walorski—expressed concern over details of the bill, it was promptly dropped. The win for reproductive rights supporters was short lived, however. Instead of voting on the abortion ban after 20-weeks on Thursday, the GOP-controlled Congress instead presented a bill that bans federal funding for abortion. The bill was passed on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a federal law that is supposed to protect a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body, and guarantee her access to a safe, legal abortion.
"By passing a mean-spirited bill that takes abortion coverage away from millions of women, the House has shown it's totally out of touch with women's lives and health care," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU, in a released statement. "Politics shouldn’t drive decisions about a woman's health or her insurance coverage. If Congress really cares about women, it will focus on expanding policies that support women and families, not on banning coverage of abortion in insurance."
The bill is being called "a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate abortion access and undermine a woman's ability to make personal decisions about her own health care" by Planned Parenthood. "[The House GOP] switched one extreme and unpopular anti-abortion bill for another in the middle of the night, when their real goal is to ban abortion altogether," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in an emailed statement. She continued, "There have been headlines recently saying House Republicans 'aren't wasting any time' introducing anti-women's health bills. We disagree: they're wasting all of our time. The public has been clear that further restrictions on abortion are not their priority, and that they don't want Congress to take women backward."
Hal C. Lawrence, MD, who is the executive president and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—and, unlike politicians, someone actually medically qualified to speak about the safety of abortion—had this to say following the vote. "These medical decisions should be made solely by women in consultation with those she trusts the most, including her gynecologist—not politicians. Moreover, threatening doctors with jail time for providing clinically appropriate care violates the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship; this would be the only area of medicine that would have criminalized physicians for providing care to patients."
Women struggling financially are specifically hurt by the bill. Without federal funding, the access they are supposed to be guaranteed under federal law could be made virtually worthless. "We remain disappointed that House leadership continues to target abortion by pivoting to payment policies," said Lawrence. "All women should have access to the medical services they need—including reproductive care—regardless of the ability to pay."
In the past four years, states have enacted 231 abortion restrictions, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. It seems now, Republican lawmakers are determined to make good on their promise to restrict a woman's right to choose.