Between a massive book deadline and an overseas trip, I feel like I’ve spent the past six weeks totally unaware of any and all current news. Which has been kind of nice, to be honest, but also means that it slipped my notice that the heinous Ohio “heartbeat bill” died a merciful death in the state senate. Turns out that while the state’s house was perfectly fine with allowing abortions to be outlawed as soon as a fetal heartbeat could be detected – which can be as early as six weeks – more rational heads prevailed in the senate, where the measure didn’t even come up for a vote. Interestingly, even a number of anti-choice politicians and activists were against the bill, contending (probably rightly) that it was too extreme to withstand the almost-inevitable court challenge that would follow its passage. While I would have rather seen the bill defeated on the grounds that it’s incredibly restrictive and blatantly places fetal rights above the rights of women, it’s still nice to see that women in Ohio will retain the right to make their own reproductive choices.
In other “hey, remember this crazy anti-choice idea?” news, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks is at it again. Earlier this year, the anti-choice politician decided that, despite not representing the District of Columbia, he was totally entitled to tell women in D.C. what to do with their bodies. Franks introduced the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District, and recently a House subcommittee held hearings on the bill. Franks did not allow Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who actually does represent D.C. residents, to testify at the hearing, although he did see fit to declare late-term abortions “the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today.”
In response to denying Norton the right to testify, D.C. residents showed up at Franks’ Capitol Hill office to protest the exclusion and bring other District issues to the attention of the man who thinks it’s okay to write laws that affect people he wasn’t elected to represent. Not surprisingly, Franks didn’t understand why anyone would be upset, saying that it’s “the pain of the child,” not the location where woman carrying the (unborn) child lives that’s at issue. While Arizona politicians have made no secret of their recent desire to make abortions as hard to access as possible, this statement is still pretty darn offensive. I’m willing to bet that Trent Franks would be nowhere near as self-righteous if a representative or senator who lived all the way across the country from Arizona decided that they had the right to tell Franks’ constituents how to live their lives, particularly if that reasoning seemed to be based on a combination of personal belief and a controversial, unproven concept.
The always-awesome Dr. Willie Parker recently spoke with The Washington Post about the proposed bill. Among other very good points, Dr. Parker discussed the way that late-term abortion bans affect women:
“The reality is that unplanned, unwanted or wanted but flawed pregnancies can occur to all women of any race, class or economic status. The women who tend to disproportionately find themselves [having a later-term abortion] tend to be at the extremes of reproductive age, maybe women over 40 who are more likely to have genetic anomalies. There are also women in poverty, with limited access to medical resources or education. … There are some difficult circumstances.”
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.