House Republican Calls Nationwide Abortion Ban Vote ‘Staggering Stupidity’

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

Republican pushed a bill to criminalize abortions after 20 weeks through the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, sending the measure on to the full House. But not all members of the majority are cheering the move.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told CQ Roll Call that the plan to rush the bill through next week is a stunning distraction from more important issues.

“I’ll be very frank: I discouraged our leadership from bringing this to a vote on the floor,” he observed. “Clearly the economy is on everyone’s minds, we’re seeing very stagnant job numbers, confidence in the institution of government is eroding and now we’re going to have a debate on rape and abortion… The stupidity is simply staggering.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), made headlines after claiming during the Judiciary Committee debate that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.”

The legislation, which is strongly endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, would criminalize abortion services after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That cut-off is based on the scientifically-disputed idea that fetuses begin to feel pain around 20 weeks — even though women have a constitutional right to abortion services until the point of viability, generally understood to occur around 24 weeks of pregnancy, under Roe v. Wade.

Banning late-term abortion services is a popular anti-choice tactic to chip away at reproductive choice and narrow the window during which women can access legal abortion services. But 20-week bans have been met with legal challenges. Just last month, an appeals court struck down a 20-week abortion ban in Arizona, and similar measures have been blocked in Idaho and Georgia.

The bill is likely to pass the House, since anti-abortion Republicans hold the majority, but is considered doomed in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.