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House Committee Continues Their Unconstitutional Attack on Women’s Health

WASHINGTON - “We must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided proposals like this one that would limit women's options,” says Cecile Richards. 

Planned Parenthood Federation of America released the following statement urging House leadership to reject the unconstitutional legislation passed by a House Judiciary Subcommittee today to ban abortion at 20 weeks in every state.  Last month, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) announced that he would expand the unconstitutional DC 20-week abortion ban to apply nationwide.  If enacted, this ban would endanger women by limiting their access to abortion even if they learn that their pregnancy poses a threat to their health. 

Following is a statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“This outrageous attack on women and their access to safe and legal abortion will not stand. Speaker Boehner should stand by his commitment to focusing on the issues important to the American people by refusing to bring this unconstitutional and deeply dangerous legislation to the floor.

“Not content just to interfere in the medical decisions of women in our nation’s capital, Representative Franks has chosen to extend this unconstitutional law to limit access to safe and legal abortion nationwide under the guise of protecting women. It comes on the heels of a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which struck down a similar ban in his home state of Arizona. 

“Laws banning abortion beginning at 20 weeks of pregnancy would take a deeply personal decision out of the hands of a woman and her doctor. While abortions later in pregnancy are uncommon, it is important that a woman and her doctor have every medical option available to protect her health. We must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided proposals like this one that would limit women's health care options.”  


In the 40 years following the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the Supreme Court has never wavered from the principle that the Constitution protects a woman's liberty, including her decision to have an abortion, and that, therefore, a state may not ban abortion prior to viability.  In fact, unconstitutional abortion bans similar to this one have been blocked several times just this year in courts across the country. 

Arizona’s 20-week ban was ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last month.  

Just two days later, on May 23, Arkansas’ recent 12-week ban was preliminarily enjoined because it “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to choose to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”

Georgia’s 20-week ban is preliminarily blocked by a state court while a challenge proceeds.

In holding an Idaho 20-week ban unconstitutional on March 6, 2013, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote, “The State's clear disregard of this controlling Supreme Court precedent and its apparent determination to define viability in a manner specifically and repeatedly condemned by the Supreme Court evinces an intent to place an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women.”

In states that have passed laws like this, some women and their families have been put into heartbreaking and tragic situations — needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so.

For example, as the result of a similar measure passed in Nebraska in 2010, a woman named Danielle Deaver, was forced to continue a pregnancy even after a health crisis meant she was going to lose the pregnancy.  She was forced to live through 10 excruciating days waiting to give birth to a baby that she knew would die minutes later, because her doctors feared prosecution under her state’s 20-week abortion ban.  “That my pregnancy ended, that choice was made by God.  How to handle the end of my pregnancy, that should have been private,” Deaver has said.

An Air Force Pilot based in Little Rock recently described his and his wife’s, a surgical nurse, difficult decision to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks – which is now prohibited in his state after a 2013 state law enacted over the Arkansas governor’s veto.  “Imagine how we felt when our ultrasound technician stopped smiling. I am a pilot in the Air Force. Even flying in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had never fully understood the meaning of dread. …. We wanted our child. We do not vote in Arkansas, we are here because I am stationed in Little Rock, and it is where we have to seek medical treatment. Military families like mine with spouses deployed and concerns of their own are subject to this unconscionable law as well.”


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Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is many things to many people. We are a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital health care services, sex education, and sexual health information to millions of women, men, and young people.

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