At a congressional committee hearing to discuss a proposed measure to criminalize abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a Texas lawmaker told a woman who made the difficult choice to terminate a non-viable pregnancy that she should have carried the fetus to term anyway — even though an MRI had already revealed that he was missing a large part of his brain and didn’t have much chance of survival.
On Thursday, Christy Zink testified in opposition to H.R. 1797, a 20-week abortion ban that anti-abortion representatives of Congress keep attempting to impose upon the women in the nation’s capital. Abortion opponents claim that 20-week bans are necessary to prevent “fetal pain.” But in her testimony, Zink pointed out it’s misleading to suggest that this abortion restriction would serve this purpose, since forcing her to carry her pregnancy to term would have actually caused her unborn son considerable pain.
At 21 weeks, Zink’s doctors discovered that her fetus had no brain function. That type of fetal abnormality was impossible to detect earlier in her pregnancy. “If this bill had been passed before my pregnancy, I would have had to carry to term and give birth to a baby whom the doctors concurred had no chance of a life and would have experienced near-constant pain,” Zink explained. “If he had survived the pregnancy — which was not certain — he might never have left the hospital. My daughter’s life, too, would have been irrevocably hurt by an almost always-absent parent.”
In order to justify his support for H.R. 1797, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) suggested that Zink should have given birth to her son anyway, regardless of the pain that may have caused her family. The congressman told a story about a different couple who decided to give birth to a fetus with different types of disabilities — suggesting that Zink should have made the same choice for her son, instead of deciding to “rip him apart”:
GOHMERT: Ms. Zink, having my great sympathy and empathy both. I still come back wondering, shouldn’t we wait, like that couple did, and see if the child can survive before we decide to rip him apart? So. These are ethical issues, they’re moral issues, they’re difficult issues, and the parents should certainly be consulted. But it just seems like, it’s a more educated decision if the child is in front of you to make those decisions.
Watch it (around the 5 minute mark):
Even though medical experts have repeatedly warned that cutting off legal abortion access at 20 weeks will force more women to carry non-viable fetuses to term, several states have enacted “fetal pain” bans over the past several years. After Arizona passed this type of stringent measure in 2012, the volunteer organizations that counsel women whose unborn children die from fatal fetal defects braced for an influx of new families dealing with that grief. When that restrictive law ended up in court, and opponents pointed out that it’s cruel to require women to give birth to children only to be forced to watch them die, Arizona defended its abortion ban by claiming that those fetal abnormalities are “the woman’s problem.”
Just earlier this week, Arizona’s abortion ban was struck down by a panel of judges, sparing the women in that state from potentially devastating effects of being denied the choice that Zink had. Nonetheless, that hasn’t deterred the anti-choice politicians in the state. Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R), who has repeatedly pushed the 20-week abortion ban for the District of Columbia, recently announced that he intends to expand H.R. 1797 to apply to women in every state.