The GOP’s effort to pass a national 20-week abortion ban is provoking considerable backlash from both sides of the aisle.
This Thursday, the full House is set to vote on HR 36, or the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The scheduled vote coincides with the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the annual March for Life, which draws thousands of abortion opponents to the National Mall. Although Republican leaders have indicated that passing a 20-week ban is one of their top priorities this session, particularly now that they control both chambers of Congress, the effort is devolving into a contentious political fight.
Two Republican congresswomen — Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) — have already officially withdrawn their support for the legislation, an unusual move that followed Ellmers’ concerns about the legislation’s narrow exception for rape victims. According to Politico, Ellmers is attempting to convince more of her female colleagues to turn against HR 36.
Republicans are reportedly still in discussions about potentially tweaking the language of the rape exception. Currently, the legislation offers an exception only to the rape victims who reported their assault to the police, even though it’s rare for individuals who are the victims of sexual violence to make formal reports.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are countering the GOP push with their own legislation designed to protect Americans from additional abortion restrictions. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats re-introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act, a landmark measure spearheaded by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that would prevent lawmakers from enacting medically unnecessary anti-choice laws — like forced ultrasounds, mandatory waiting periods, and admitting privilege requirements.
More than 100 Democrats in Congress have signed on to support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which they believe will help position them on the offensive amid increasing legislative attacks on reproductive rights.
Several members of Congress who have been particularly vocal in support of abortion access, including Blumenthal, will appear at a rally on Wednesday afternoon to oppose the proposed 20-week ban. That event, which is being organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America, will give lawmakers an opportunity to “send a strong pro-choice message” that “attacks on reproductive freedom will not be tolerated.”
Medical professionals are also raising their voices against the anti-abortion bill, which threatens to cut off abortion access for women in desperate situations, such as pregnant women who discover that their fetus has fatal abnormalities.
“Physicians and their patients may determine abortion care at 20 weeks is the best medical option for many important reasons,” Nancy L. Stanwood, the board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “HR 36 would jeopardize the health of women and put doctors at risk of criminal penalties for doing what is medically best. This is a terrible bill for women and we urge members of Congress to vote No.”
Thousands of Americans have spoken out on the grassroots level, too. A petition drive in opposition to HR 36 led by NARAL, CREDO, and UltraViolet has garnered more than 140,000 signatures from Americans across the country, according to a press release from the organizations. “We have to show the new Congress that the majority of Americans want them to focus on the economy and jobs, not taking away abortion access,” the text of the petition reads.