Under the plan reportedly being proposed by Rubio, a woman would be unable to get an abortion beyond 20 weeks gestation. And though the bill does include exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at risk, it doesn’t appear to make exceptions if a woman’s health is at stake.
The foundation for this legislation is a scientifically disputed idea that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks. It is the same motivation that has driven such bans at the state level. Most recently, Texas has taken the national spotlight for its proposed 20-week ban, and eight other states have passed ‘fetal pain’ laws.
If Rubio really does move this bill forward, it would be more for the purposes of political showmanship than real policy-making. The bill doesn’t stand a chance of passing through the Democratically-controlled Senate. Additionally, there is a serious question about the constitutionality of a 20-week ban. Three of those eight states that have passed such bans had to put their laws on hold, since courts have contested their constitutionality.
Plus, when it comes down to it, a 20-week ban isn’t exactly the most logical place for an anti-abortion Senator to focus his energy if he is serious about the issue. Abortion after 20 weeks is extremely rare — it accounts for just 1.5 percent of all abortions, and most of the women who wait until 20 weeks to get the procedure do so because they discover a fetal abnormality that puts the fetus’s life or health at risk. Other women are forced to delay until then because they face extreme financial hardship and need to save money for the procedure.