Last week, the House advanced HR 36—a bill that would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy nationwide—to the Senate. President Trump has already stated that he would sign the bill into law, should it ultimately end up on his desk.
Gaylynn Burroughs, Policy Director at the Feminist Majority, called the ban “a shameless attempt to degrade and criminalize women’s constitutionally protected right to access abortion.” FM and other groups like NARAL are mobilizing their members to oppose this dangerous legislation by contacting their Senators.
These five facts about the anti-abortion legislation reveal that Burroughs is speaking the truth—and that lawmakers are putting countless women’s lives at risk in an attempt to win political points, all while flying in the face of the law and medical science.
#1. HR 36 would criminalize abortion providers.
A healthcare provider who violates the 20-week ban put in place under HR 36 would be subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in jail, or both. Criminalizing doctors for providing patients with abortion care threatens women’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortions—and it sets a dangerous precedent for government involvement in women’s lives and the kinds of decisions patients make with their doctors. Also, it’s a legal practice that’s straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale.
#2. Also, it’s based off of junk science.
Despite copious amounts of scientific research—published by reputable outlets including The New York Times, Vox, Salon and Science Progress—all but disproving the theory of so-called “fetal pain,” this factually inaccurate concept has carried alarmingly significant clout. In fact, it’s literally what HR 36 is named after: In a letter to anti-abortion leaders in September 2016, Trump encouraged these individuals to join his so-called Pro-Life Coalition and emphasized his dedication to “signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.”
#3. And although there are exceptions to this bill for women and minors who are the victims of rape or incest, there are demeaning hurdles through which they still must jump.
Under HR 36, victims of rape have to report the assault to police and attend counseling in order to obtain an abortion. Minors who are victims of rape or incest must go through law enforcement to qualify for an exemption. These requirements force victims to drag out painful and traumatic experiences while simultaneously forcing them to involve a plethora of people and strangers in the process—a direct threat to the right of privacy granted in Roe v. Wade and a mechanism making it harder (and more expensive) for them to ultimately obtain an abortion. In addition, it is an unfortunate truth that many women face shame and harassment for being the victims of abuse—therefore, this law would endanger women whose safety depends on the confidentiality of their abortion process.
On top of all of that, these hurdles prove that attacks on abortion are attacks on women’s bodily autonomy—because no woman should have to ask for permission from the state for a legal and safe medical procedure.
#4. Like most all other legislation restricting women’s access to reproductive care, HR 36 would disproportionately impact low-income women—putting them at the most risk.
While the majority of women who receive abortions have some sort of health insurance, most of those women end up paying out-of-pocket. This is either because they do not believe their insurance covers the cost of an abortion, or for reasons of stigma unfortunately attached to abortion. With that said, the average out-of-pocket cost for the abortion pill within the first trimester is $483. However, the surgical procedure, which is required for second term abortions, can cost up to $3,000. Add travel expenses for women who must travel hours or even out of state to legally access a clinic, lost wages from time taken off of work, childcare expenses—and the financial obstacles quickly become overwhelming.
All of this is to say: accessing an abortion is much more difficult for certain women than it is for others. In fact, many times, it is simply impossible for low-income women. Banning abortion at 20 weeks creates an unforgiving timeline for many women who may not immediately know they are pregnant, who cannot take time off work or who need time to raise the necessary funds to pay for the abortion in addition to all of its extraneous costs.
#5. That’s because abortion bans don’t end abortion—they merely increase the rates of illegal and dangerous abortions and lead to maternal mortality.
This is no secret. From before Roe to present day in areas where access to safe and legal abortion care is sparse, women have been seeking alternative options to safe abortion care. Abortion bans are bad for women’s health, period. Ending access to safe and legal abortion services does not end abortion—it only increases the number of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and deaths related to pregnancy complications. Similarly, HR 36 would not prevent women from obtaining abortions after 20 weeks—it would just stop them from being able to do so safely.