Prenatal Bureaucracy Hinders Women’s Rights

House bill passed in good faith, but without strong scientific backing


Sarah Reinbrecht, Scarlet Staff

On Oct. third, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Essentially, the bill bans abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for when the mother’s life is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Additionally, the bill would require an abortion to be done in a way that ensures the greatest chances of the unborn child surviving, as well as the presence of “a second physician trained in neonatal resuscitation,” the Washington Post reports. President Trump supports the bill. Though this bill may seem as though it has good intentions, it is just another example of primarily male lawmakers interfering with a woman’s right to an abortion.

It is important to understand that, according to Planned Parenthood, almost 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks. Further, when abortions are done after 20 weeks, they are not done simply because a woman no longer wants to be pregnant; they are done because of “complex circumstance” such as “severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the women’s health,” Planned Parenthood explains. Planned Parenthood has numerous stories on their website about women having to abort a wanted child because of severe fetal defects. In these situations, women need to have every option available to them, a view supported by Planned Parenthood. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act limits women’s options when they need them the most.

Additionally, the bill does not prioritize the mother. It does admittedly allow for an abortion when her life is threatened, but it forces doctors to proceed with the abortion in the best way for the child instead of the mother. Further, as previously explained, abortions completed after 20 weeks are almost always done for serious medical reasons. It can be emotionally difficult for women to undergo an abortion, even if they believe it is the best decision. This bill would make it more difficult for women to get an abortion by requiring an additional doctor to be present and by forcing the mother to navigate bureaucratic rules, compounding their emotional pain.

The bill and its creators are also misguided in how they are trying to protect fetuses. Vox reports that the bill is based on the idea that fetuses at that age can feel pain. However, based on current research, fetuses do not feel pain at 20 weeks. The New York Times cites a study that says fetuses likely become capable of feeling pain at about 27 weeks. It is respectable that politicians are trying to minimize suffering for the fetus, but it is flawed to support and advocate for a bill that does not prioritize scientific, factual information. Arguably, a ban on abortions completed after 20 weeks may even cause greater harm to the child; the mother may have to make arrangements to obtain the abortion elsewhere, thus delaying the abortion and possibly having the abortion at a time when the fetus can feel pain. Or, the fetus may be born and may be subject to pain and suffering because of the birth defects that led the mother to seek an abortion.

Finally, Planned Parenthood cites evidence that a majority of voters (61 percent) believe abortion should be legal after 20 weeks. Additionally, most voters, regardless of political affiliation, believe this is the wrong issue for lawmakers to spend time on. Ideally, abortions after 20 weeks would not happen. But because our world is not perfect, we need to ensure that mothers and doctors are able to do what is best for the mother and the fetus.