As one restrictive abortion law is upheld this week, one falls by the wayside. Last night, the House of Representatives voted 220 to 154 to pass a bill that would ban all abortions (including in cases of incest, rape, and fetal abnormalities) in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks; although a majority of representatives approved the measure, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
The proposed bill had garnered much national attention in recent months. Its sponsor, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, did not shy away from a reliance on both hyperbole (he repeatedly called late-term abortions “the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today”) and unproven medical theories to advance his agenda. Franks based his bill on the controversial concept of “fetal pain,” an issue on which the medical community has reached no firm consensus. The fact that Franks was attempting to regulate the choices of constituents that he did not represent also drew criticism, especially after the District’s actual representative, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, was not allowed to speak at hearings regarding the bill.
While it’s tempting to think that the matter has now been tabled in Congress, the Senate has not yet voted on its companion bill.