Congressional Republicans have easily made reproductive rights the main adversary in this fall’s budget showdown. Threatening to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood funding remains in the current budget has certainly been their most prominent — and urgent — move. But holding the government budget hostage until money for Planned Parenthood is off the table isn’t the sole threat to reproductive health rights in Congress.
In the wake of a contentious video campaign accusing the national women’s health organization of illegally selling fetal tissue, Republicans have introduced a rash of separate bills attacking reproductive rights. While such national bills will have a hard time getting past Senate Democrats and President Obama, their spread speaks to the growing efforts in Congress to galvanize the anti-abortion movement.
Plus, many of these bills have gained timely momentum, bubbling to the surface as Pope Francis arrived in the U.S. this week and prepares to make his first appearance in front of Congress — a platform that GOP lawmakers hope he uses to denounce abortion.
Aside from efforts to use the complicated budget process to target Planned Parenthood, here are all the ways national lawmakers are trying to undermine reproductive rights:
Banning abortions after 20 weeks
In an attempt to avoid a government shutdown while still giving national lawmakers a chance to air their anti-abortion sentiments, Republicans recently advanced a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill is based on the much-debated concept that a fetus can feel pain after a certain amount of gestation time in the womb, even though scientific evidence suggests that fetuses don’t feel pain until after the point of viability, which occurs later. While it passed in the House, Senate Democrats quashed the bill on Tuesday.
Defunding Planned Parenthood for one year
Last Friday, the House passed a standalone bill seeking to defund Planned Parenthood for a one-year period — which would eliminate roughly $255 million in federal funds for the organization, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Earlier this month, CBO released data illustrating how the federal savings would likely burden the low-income women who would be cut off from reliable sources of health care. If this defunding became permanent, CBO said it could deprive as many as 650,000 women of access to health care. President Obama said he would veto this bill.
Prohibiting research on human fetal tissue
A July bill introduced by House Representatives proposes to ban the use of all human fetal tissue from abortions in research. This is the only national bill proposed that directly targets the actual issue conservatives said they have with the Planned Parenthood videos: The use of fetal tissue recovered from abortions in scientific research. However, leading scientists have said that pulling the plug on this type of research would have catastrophic effects on crucial medical studies and the patients they address. Fetal tissue has played a major role in creating vital vaccines, aiding research in new ways to treat a host of degenerative diseases, and even helping defend an unborn child in the womb from illness.
Incarcerating doctors who mishandle “live-birth abortions”
The House and Senate both recently introduced bills penalizing doctors involved in live-birth abortions who fail to give “appropriate care” to the baby, and the House passed the measure on Friday. Under this legislation, doctors could be sentenced to five years in prison if they don’t administer lifesaving treatment to fetuses that are born alive after attempted abortions — an implicit way of suggesting that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are currently breaking the law. The ACLU says this broad legislation, which is misleadingly titled the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,’’ is another tactic to “intimidate abortion providers and drive them out of practice.”
Banning “dismemberment abortions”
Last week, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith (R) introduced a bill that would prohibit fetal “dismemberment” abortions — a dramatized term for the most common way to perform a surgical abortion after the first trimester. While the World Health Organization says this technique, medically referred to as Dilation and Evacuation, or “D&E,” is the safest and most efficient way to conduct a later abortion, this ban has already been enacted in Kansas and Oklahoma — and other states may soon follow suit.