Last night the House of Representatives passed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban. It has no health exception and a rape exception only if a woman has reported her attack to the police. It’s called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and it relies on junk science that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks in order to limit abortions. It also has no chance of passing at the federal level (it has and will pass at the state level). You can read up on all of its ickiness here.
In addition to the normal anti-choice points, the author, Trent Franks, is framing his argument and his bill around the Kermit Gosnell case. I’d like to tell you why I find that surreal.
You’re most likely a human, so ask yourself: would you go to a doctor like that? Would you spend two minutes in that clinic for a checkup, let alone an invasive procedure? Gosnell is a butcher who hired unlicensed staff, including a high school student, to administer anesthesia and perform surgical duties. His clinic was covered in blood and filled with filthy, rusted over instruments. He was storing fetal remains in milk jugs and cat food containers. The smell of his clinic was described by investigators as “unbearable.” If you are interesting in being horrified even further, read this (no joke though, not for the weak stomached).
His is a story about murder, not abortion. It is a story of the absolute failure of a health department to enforce even the most basic of health regulations. It is a story about a community of women, mostly of color, who were so desperate and hopeless that they walked into the set of a horror movie and decided to stay. And the Republicans’ answer to this problem is to ban more abortions? To restrict access further?
Late-term abortions are by far the grossest to describe (you know, like any surgery would be), and bans on them are the easiest to sell. But those bans are also the cruelest for the women they hurt.
They target women who want to be mothers. They hit the woman whose late-term tests show her baby will die minutes after it is born. They force her to carry around a doomed fetus that she wanted, knowing it will never live to be a child. And perhaps, saddest and most ironic, that family loses the ability to choose to protect their child from a painful slow death waiting for them outside the womb.*
They target women who are sick. The difference between saving a mother’s health and a mother’s life isn’t always clear. Without a health exception, a woman could be forced to forgo chemotherapy. These bans target the mother who will birth a baby without a brain or kidneys and who will then lose the ability to try another child.
They target the poorest of the poor, women without resources. These women have to save money or travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, and then book hotel rooms for punitive waiting periods.
Study after study tells us the same thing: abortion restrictions do not stop abortions. In fact, worldwide abortion rates are down most in countries where there are the fewest restrictions on abortions and family planning resources.
Restrictions do, however, increase one number: the rates of injury and death from illegal procedures. The more barriers we put up to safe, legal abortions, the more women will be forced to turn to dangerous, frightening alternatives.
And if you don’t think that’s possible in America, just ask the patients of Kermit Gosnell.
*I want to be clear that I am not trying to imply that ending this type of pregnancy is better or worse than carrying it to term. I know two incredible, brilliant women who had to make this horrific decision and they each chose what they thought was right for their family. My only point is that there are some families who feel ending the pregnancy is an act of love for their child and they ought to be able to make that decision for their family.