To no one’s surprise, the female body has once again been politicized by placing a woman’s right to choose in the hands of politicians. The House of Representatives passed a bill on Oct. 3, banning abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, with the only exceptions being in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life. Although the bill has been approved by the House, it has not yet been voted on by the Senate, where it will hopefully be blocked. Those in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act have used “emerging scientific research that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks” as a platform for their cause. However, and this is the important part– the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have not endorsed that “scientific research,” which could be more accurately described as an alternative fact. This information has only been spread by pro-life activists looking to pass their bill.
This bill violates a woman’s right to choose, and completely ignores the context in which most late-term abortions take place.
Only 1.3 percent of all abortions take place after 20 weeks, because if a woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy, in just about all cases, that difficult decision is made much earlier in her pregnancy. Oftentimes when women have abortions after 20 weeks it is due to a potentially devastating medical concern. Until about the 18th week of pregnancy, doctors can only determine if there is a higher risk of major issues with the fetus. It is not until after the 18th week of pregnancy that a physician can determine if there is actually something irreversibly wrong with a fetus.
Additionally, women may lack the necessary resources to terminate their pregnancy prior to twenty weeks, or be in an unsafe relationship or high-pressure situation that prevents them from performing the abortion earlier on. It is also possible for a woman to be unaware of her pregnancy until later in her term, making an earlier abortion impossible.
Given this, there is absolutely no way for the government to know and predict the reason behind every abortion that takes place after 20 weeks and there is no way for the government, as an institution, to understand the pain associated with the choices individual women make about their personal life. How could the government understand why a woman would decide that she can no longer carry her unborn child? For this reason, it is not the government’s job to determine when a woman can terminate her pregnancy.
Additionally, the bill only allows for abortions if the mother’s life is directly and urgently threatened. It does not support any other medical concerns that could affect the mother at this stage in the pregnancy, and does not take into account what could happen to the mother if she is forced to continue to carry and birth her child.
I am disheartened that we are still having this conversation, and that the United States House of Representatives voted in favor of “alternative facts.” Although I am hopeful that the Senate will stop this bill in its tracks, I am fearful that control over one’s personal body is being threatened.
When it comes down to it, abortion is a politicized topic that is sometimes unpleasant to conceptualize. But regardless of how uncomfortable it may be to think about, all women deserve the right to choose and should have access to make a decision that is rightfully theirs. Constricting the time frame of a woman’s choice removes the principles of freedom the United States so proudly calls our own.
photo courtesy of “Inside Congress: Understanding the Legislative Process” published by The Brookings Institute.