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Yet Another Legislative Attack on Abortion

In yet another attempt to devastate reproductive healthcare, House Republicans recently reintroduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), which would criminalize the performance of abortions later than 20 weeks in a pregnancy. The House passed this bill on October 3 (with a vote split directly along party lines), and if it passes the Senate, it will be incredibly detrimental to everyone’s access to reproductive healthcare.

This bill is not new. The Republicans in Congress have been attempting to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act since 2013, and the bill passed the House and died in the Senate three times before the most recent House vote on October 3. Following the failure of the Graham-Cassidy Health Care bill, the Republicans reintroduced H.R. 36 to advance their healthcare platform in other ways—in this case, restricting access to safe abortions.

Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), the primary sponsor of this bill, has a long history of opposing abortion and, more notably, making extremely controversial claims on the topic. His 2002 campaign site called abortion “a great human genocide that is causing unfathomable harm to American mothers and destroying the future itself.” In 2010, he claimed that “far more of the African American community is being devastated by the [abortion] policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.” These absurd claims provide just a glimpse of Franks’ ignorance and insensitivity on the topic, and such views have no place in the regulation of healthcare.

Franks and other proponents of this bill claim that it is the result of scientific research and altruistic desires to protect the health of women and “pain-capable” children. It’s not. Just like every other legislative attack on abortion, this bill is about restricting bodily autonomy by limiting access to safe and legal reproductive care.

The text of the bill claims that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks of fertilization.” However, the bill does not cite any real scientific studies. In fact, actual medical professionals—like the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists