Attempt to Restrict Abortions in Washington, D.C. Fails

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.

Another Week, Another Pair of Male Politicians Trying to Regulate Women’s Bodies

Maybe it’s the unrelenting heat in our nation’s capital, or maybe they just can’t help themselves, but this week Arizona Rep. Trent Franks and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sank to new depths in their respective crusades to regulate women’s bodies.

In the District, Franks busied himself with pushing an odious bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks for D.C. women through yet another House committee; it will now go to the full House of Representatives for a vote. Franks’ oft-stated rationale for the ban is based on the medically unproven idea that fetuses can feel pain after the 20th week of pregnancy. But he didn’t let that fact get in his way this week, claiming that the scientific consensus behind the idea “is almost universal,” and he also didn’t let the idea of common decency to his colleagues interrupt his grandstanding. Franks refused to let the District’s sole representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, testify at the latest hearing, even though the bill would directly affect her constituents. Perhaps that’s because Norton is staunchly against the measure; her statement on the matter pointed out that the bill is “the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would deny constitutional rights to the citizens of only one jurisdiction in our country. It is also the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

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Three Years Later

Abortion Gang and the Provider Project are honoring Dr. Tiller by collecting blog posts from around the internetSubmit yours.

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.

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Anti-Choice News: The Good, the Bad, and the Ludicrous

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.” [Read more...]

Arizona Politician Thinks He Knows What’s Best for D.C. Women

Not content to just do the work for the state that actually elected him, Arizona Republican Trent Franks has decided to tackle the apparently pressing issue of late-term abortions in Washington, DC. Franks, with backing from the National Right to Life Committee, has introduced the ”District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which would ban abortions after 20 weeks for District women. Similar bills are already in place in Nebraska, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

As Franks is the chairman of the House subcommittee that will be handling his legislation — and the bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Lamar Smith and Darrell Issa, who both hold powerful committee positions as well — it is all but certain the the bill will be on the fast track to a vote on the House floor.

Defending his decision to interfere in the personal decisions of women he doesn’t represent, Franks says that his bill “would address the pain and suffering of children who have done nothing wrong … [i]t will emphasize the humanity of the child and the inhumanity of what is being done to them.” This is in keeping with the anti-choice rationale for all of these bills, but it ignores some very basic facts about late-term procedures and fetal development. [Read more...]