The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Kate Bernyk, Press Director
Jennifer Miller, US Press Officer

US House Attacks Women's Health and Rights, Passes Unconstitutional Federal Abortion Ban

Measure stalled earlier this year due to loud opposition now includes cruel 48-hour waiting period for rape survivors

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortion in the United States after 20 weeks--a cruel and unconstitutional measure with only narrow exceptions for women with life-threatening conditions, rape survivors who have received medical care or counseling for the sexual assault at least 48-hours prior to receiving care, and minors who have reported rape or incest to law enforcement or child protective services.
H.R. 36 was originally slated for a vote in January 2015, but cancelled last minute following loud opposition over the bill's previous language requiring rape and incest survivors to report their abuse.
Today's substituted version now imposes additional hurdles that interfere with the patient-provider relationship and further delay care, including what amounts to a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for rape survivors, requiring adult patients to obtain medical care or counseling from a state-licensed counselor or victims' rights advocate for their assault at least two days prior to receiving abortion services. For minors who have become pregnant after rape or incest, they are still required to report the crime to law enforcement or child protective services.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
"The politicians behind this bill clearly learned nothing from the outrage provoked earlier this year by its gross intrusions into women's private lives and decisions.
"As if it weren't enough to severely limit women's options for confronting potentially devastating challenges during their pregnancies, this noxious legislation would also require rape survivors to undergo additional medical care or counseling whether they want it or not.
"This bill is a danger to women's lives and well-being, an affront to their dignity, and a threat to the rights and liberties all Americans hold dear. Congress must reject this callous and unconstitutional bill."
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held--first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey--that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona's ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans.
H.R. 36 would take critical medical decisions out of the hands of women and their trusted health care providers, as abortion care after 20 weeks may be the best medical option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy--and potentially the presence of life-threatening complications and severe fetal abnormalities.
The devastating impact of these cruel laws are evident in stories like Whitney's, a woman who has spoken out about her experience needing an abortion after 20 weeks in North Carolina, one of 11 states in the U.S. where the services are currently banned. After receiving a difficult diagnosis, she was forced to travel out of state to get the safe, legal care she needed and had a constitutional right to obtain.
The Women's Health Protection Act, which was reintroduced in the Senate and House earlier this year, would prohibit politicians from imposing harmful measures such as H.R. 36 and other restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women's personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global human rights organization of lawyers and advocates who ensure reproductive rights are protected in law as fundamental human rights for the dignity, equality, health, and well-being of every person.

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