Rep. Trent Franks recently made news for his crusade to ban abortion after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. While Franks’ action is particularly brazen because the Arizona Congressman was not elected to represent the women of D.C., he was really just jumping on a growing anti-choice trend of restricting when women can legally terminate their pregnancies. Franks’ home state currently has the most draconian law in effect, decreeing that any abortion after 20 weeks gestation – which the state is defining as the 18th week of pregnancy – is illegal in Arizona.
When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his church three years ago, many people, both in the pro-choice movement and the country at large, feared for the safety of abortion providers. There was so much talk about how providers – and their families, and their patients, and their clinic staffs – deserve to be able to live their lives without concern that a violent extremist will decide that it somehow makes sense to kill in the name of the “pro-life” cause. There was also a lot of talk about the role of late-term providers in general: how vital their work is, and to what extent Dr. Tiller’s murder might prevent other doctors from providing this service. But I don’t think anyone was seriously talking about the possibility that late-term abortions themselves might just be legislated out of existence. That seemed too brazen an assault against Roe v. Wade to even consider, too direct a strike against women’s rights and privacy and autonomy.