This evening, the Senate blocked the passage of a twenty-week abortion ban supported by Trump, which had been hanging idly in the Senate since it passed through the House of Representatives with a 237 vote majority last fall. The bill is based on the widely-debated conception that at twenty weeks, a fetus can feel pain. This idea has been disputed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The failure of this bill to pass feels especially poignant as it falls just one week after the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that protected a woman’s right to choose.
While a woman’s right to choose should be protected throughout her pregnancy, it is important to note just how truly insane this bill was. The bill specifically outlawed abortions past twenty weeks, halfway through a woman’s pregnancy. I ask you, what woman decides halfway through her pregnancy that she just doesn’t want to be a mom anymore? Not a fleeting moment of panic during which she worries that she won’t be good enough, or that the challenge in front of her will be too overwhelming, but a moment in which she realizes that the task she has spent months or possibly even years planning for is one that she no longer wants to take on? That she no longer wants to meet the person she has been growing inside of her? This just does not add up.
Abortions performed at or past twenty weeks of gestation are almost always incredibly painful and performed on babies who were deeply desired by the women who were carrying them. They are performed in rare, upsetting, and unforgiving circumstances, where continuing the pregnancy would be incredibly harmful, painful or even fatal for the mother, child, or both. There is no need to outlaw abortions performed at twenty weeks gestation because they are not desired by any woman.
Moreso, this law would attempt to apply criminal penalties to physicians who performed abortions at twenty weeks gestation. The purpose and goal of a physician are to heal those who are sick and to allow a patient to continue living for as long as is possible and appropriate: in what other profession has Congress attempted to criminally prosecute a person for performing their job appropriately?
Perhaps the most incomprehensible part of this bill is that it makes minimal progress for the pro-life community. Current protections on abortion only last until about the twenty-third week. So why do these three weeks matter so much? The reality of the situation is that the three weeks do not matter in and of themselves. Republicans– and few Democrats– in Congress are not looking to legislate on the basis of capability of pain, as they claim. They are looking to be given an inch so that they may take a mile. Lest we forget that they attempted to pass a six-week abortion ban last year– a timeline that would barely allow for women to even realize that they were pregnant. Last night, Congress was not given that inch. And we’re holding tight to the mile, too.