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House takes up far-reaching anti-abortion bill

By Jim Abrams

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:20 a.m. HST, Jun 18, 2013

WASHINGTON » House Republicans today make their most concerted effort of the year to change federal abortion law with legislation that would ban almost all abortions after a fetus reaches the age of 20 weeks.

The "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," expected to pass by a comfortable margin late today, would be a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions up to the time a fetus becomes viable. Fetal viability is generally considered to be at least 24 weeks into the pregnancy.

The measure will be ignored by the Democratic-led Senate and the White House, saying the bill is "an assault on a woman's right to choose," has issued a veto threat.

Even if the policy were to become law, it would almost certainly face a legal challenge. That's a prospect supporters hope for as part of the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.

The two sides in the abortion debate agreed at least on the importance of the measure.

National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson said it was the "most significant piece of pro-life legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act" that was enacted in 2003. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill "clearly is an attack on women's constitutional right to choose and is one of the most far-reaching bans on abortion this committee has ever considered."

Some 11 state legislatures have passed similar measures. Several have been challenged in court and a federal court last month struck down a slightly different Arizona law that banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-abortion groups said the time frame in the House bill and other state laws, which ban abortion 20 weeks after conception, is equal to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The sponsors of the bill also cited evidence — which opponents say is disputed — that fetuses can feel pain after five months.

House GOP leaders, stymied by a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House, have chosen to focus on economic issues rather than contentious social topics such as abortion. "Jobs continue to be our number one concern," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week when asked about the abortion bill. But he said that "after the Kermit Gosnell case and the publicity that it received, I think the legislation is appropriate."

Gosnell was a Philadelphia abortion provider who last month received a life sentence for what prosecutors said was the murder of three babies delivered alive. The case energized anti-abortion groups, who said it exemplified the inhumanity of late-term abortions.

The original House bill, sponsored by anti-abortion leader Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., was aimed only at the District of Columbia, but was expanded to cover the entire nation after the Gosnell case received national attention.

Pro-choice groups argued that the 20-week ban, in addition to being unconstitutional, would affect women just at the point of learning of a fetal anomaly or determining that the pregnancy could put the mother's life in danger.

As introduced, the bill provided for an exception to the ban only in cases of a physical condition that endangers the life of the mother. In the Judiciary Committee last week, Republicans rejected Democratic attempts to include rape, incest and other health problems as grounds for exceptions.

But Franks, during debate on the rape exception, angered Democrats and drew unwanted publicity to the bill when he stated that cases of "rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

Franks later rephrased his remark, but GOP leaders rushed to impose damage control. A provision was inserted in the bill heading to the House floor including a rape and incest exception, and Franks, who heads the Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution and civil justice, was replaced as floor manager for the bill by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Democrats had pointed out that every Republican on the Judiciary Committee that approved the anti-abortion bill was a man.

With the changes, said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, "the GOP is desperately trying to hide that the party has a deep hostility to women's rights and freedom."

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Grimbold wrote:
20 weeks, that sounds ok, actually I do not know why any woman waits more then 3 momths to decide to Abort and that is 12 weeks. Also the women and their asssociates ( like pimroosters and if they come into Money later in life should be responsible ´for the medical expenses laid out by taxpayers. for at least 20 years..
on June 18,2013 | 07:38AM
ryan02 wrote:
Do you mean reimburse for the cost of an abortion? What about making people reimburse for the cost of childbirth? If abortion is a choice, then so is childbirth. Why should I pay for someone else's childbirth? Also, it's funny how republicans never mention how it is many, many, many times cheaper abortion is than childbirth. But more importantly, childbirth is many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many times more dangerous than abortion. That's 20 "manys" (1 in 4,000 deaths from childbirth v. 1 in 80,000 for abortion). Can the government force someone to take a 1 in 4,000 chance of death against their will? To put it in perspective, the odds of maternal death from childbirth is 37 times greater than the risk of death from skydiving. To all women who took that chance, that's great and your should be commended. But it's not the government's place to require it.
on June 18,2013 | 08:44AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
Of course, ryan02, you seem to ignore that abortion is (almost) 100% likely to result in death as well. I'm not sure how many "may"s that would be.
on June 18,2013 | 08:57AM
ryan02 wrote:
Not all people believe that life begins at conception. But even assuming it does for the sake of argument, another life cannot trump a person's control of their body. That's why we don't require bone marrow and blood donations against the donor's will, even if some innocent child will die because of it. That's the price we pay to allow people personal autonomy over their medical decisions. If we didn't have a constitution, maybe the government could require women to continue a pregnancy to birth, or could require me to donate bone marrow, but we DO have a a constitution. There are limits to what the government can control.
on June 18,2013 | 10:25AM
hawaiikone wrote:
When do you consider "life" to have begun?
on June 18,2013 | 11:36AM
kiragirl wrote:
Apples and oranges. You mentioned choices but omitted getting pregnant is also a choice. All life is precious and should not be taken as an afterthought, like many do.
on June 18,2013 | 12:27PM
ryan02 wrote:
Would it be constitutional for the government to require people to donate blood or bone marrow, against their will, if it's required to keep another person alive? I don't think so. Because we have control over our own bodies, even if someone else will die because of it. People are not even required by law to donate organs AFTER THEY ARE DEAD, because we can't violate that dead person's control over his body. So republicans think pregnant women should have less control over their own bodies than dead people. Why any woman would vote republican is beyond me. Even if that woman never plans to have an abortion, just the thought that the republican party considers women to be lower than dead corpses should be a wake-up call not to vote for them.
on June 18,2013 | 08:36AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
ryan02, hpw many bodies is the mother responsible for during pregnancy?
on June 18,2013 | 08:58AM
ryan02 wrote:
Her own body, of course. Unless the republicans have their way, then the government gets to control her body. And "her body" includes whatever is inside it, like a fetus or a spare kidney, or bone marrow.
on June 18,2013 | 10:26AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
So the constitution applies to a person starting when?
on June 18,2013 | 10:30AM
ryan02 wrote:
At the vest least, when they are born. But Roe v. Wade makes the abortion cut-off at viability, which makes sense because at the point the fetus no longer needs to use the mother's body to survive, so it's no longer an issue of the mother's control over her own body (assuming that's what viability means, that the fetus can be removed and live). That's also why I don't support the right to partial-birth abortions.
on June 18,2013 | 12:18PM
Dolphin743 wrote:
So it's not worth revisiting Row vs. Wade given 40 years of advancement in science? I am quite willing to wager that "viability" today can occur before 24 weeks, will soon be routinely pushed back to 20 weeks, and will steadily roll back even farther. Is there such great harm in setting a reasonable, but not open-ended window for a woman to make her second choice (her first choice occuring when she became pregnant--with some noted exceptions of course)? There is no other case in America where a single person's decision can end a healthy person's life outside of self-defense. That decision should not be treated as routine in any way, and I doubt that the target audience for your cause (pregnant teenagers) is in all cases fully ready to take on the life-long emotional consequences of a decision to actively terminate another life that would grow into a healthy person if no action were taken.
on June 18,2013 | 01:39PM
HatchKelso wrote:
Abortion is the greatest moral challenge facing our nation today. The choice to terminate the life of a defenseless unborn child is not a "wonan's right," it is the termination of a human life.
on June 18,2013 | 08:48AM
ryan02 wrote:
I realize some people think life begins at conception. Not all people think that. But even assuming for the sake of argument that it does, we sacrifice lives all the time in order to preserve "freedom" and our "constitution." What about all the innocent people who are collateral damage during wars? That's ok, because we were protecting our freedom. What freedom is that? The right to a speedy trial? The right to be secure in our papers and effects? Why isn't a woman's right to control her body given the same priority as other constitutional rights, the kind of rights the nation will go to war (and sacrifice innocent people in the process) to protect? Why aren't women worthy of having those rights?
on June 18,2013 | 10:31AM
8082062424 wrote:
since abortion has just become another form of birth control with some high school girls having as many as 3 before they get out of high school. And you now have women using abortion as a way to select the sex of there unborn child. Let them pay for it not the government dollars. see how fast the numbers drop and they find a better form of birth control
on June 18,2013 | 10:58AM
ryan02 wrote:
First of all, I always thought that argument was backwards -- the younger, stupider, more selfish girls are probably the ones who shouldn't be having kids, so they should make abortions easier for this group. But also, logically it doesn't make sense. If the argument is that these girls are so dumb and selfish that they cannot be trusted to make medical decisions for themselves, then why force them to become mothers, because you are entrusting them to make medical decisions for a baby. If they can't make those decisions for themselves, they should not become mothers. Second, abortion is cheaper than childbirth. If abortion is elective, then so is childbirth. Why should insurance or government cover either? Let the women pay for their own abortions, or pay for their own childbirth. I shouldn't have to pay for other people to have kids any more than you should have to pay for other people to have abortions. Let the women choose which one they want to pay for themselves. Problem solved, and it's something we can all agree on.
on June 18,2013 | 12:23PM
8082062424 wrote:
that more then fair.
on June 18,2013 | 12:46PM
Dolphin743 wrote:
A society dies without children. In America, Social Security will disappear without an increasing population. It is very easy to argue that it IS a good investment to promote having more children through a variety of means and programs. Of course, it's also in society's interest to make sure that children grow up to be net positive contributors, but that's a different discussion. A well-raised child is overall far more beneficial to society than an abortion.
on June 18,2013 | 01:28PM
Fred01 wrote:
Rep. Trent Franks is inbred. You can tell by his eyes.
on June 18,2013 | 10:56AM
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