The newly elected GOP-controlled congressional leaders were sworn in on Tuesday and began working on five new bills restricting reproductive rights, despite campaign promises to focus on jobs and the economy.
The first is a 20-week abortion ban, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ban, which directly violates Roe v Wade by placing restrictions on a woman’s right to privacy in decisions made between she and her doctor prior to fetal viability. Sponsored by Representative Frank Trents (R-AZ) in 2013 and reintroduced by Trents and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in 2015, the bill restricts a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks of gestation, which is typically just before the time that fetal anomalies are detected. The bill passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2013 but died in the Democratic-controlled Senate. New provisions were added to the bill in cases of rape and incest and in cases where a woman’s life is endangered by continuing a pregnancy.
Senator David Vitter (R-VA) also introduced four more bills around abortion. The first would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding despite the organization’s history of providing myriad reproductive health services such as cancer screenings and family planning services to women who cannot afford these services elsewhere. Pro-lifers have pushed these bills despite the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which already restricts federal funding for abortion services.
The other three bills whittle away at Roe v Wade in all the usual ways: requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges in local hospitals, restricting abortion on the basis of gender, and allowing doctors and nurses to refuse abortion services based on their religious or moral beliefs, even in cases of emergency.?This is not surprising considering that this Congress is the most diverse ever?at 80% male.
With the Supreme Court considering the constitutionality of firing pregnant women whose doctors have advised them not to perform full-duty jobs, such as in the case of Young v UPS in which a pregnant employee was fired after her doctor requested that she be placed on light duty, an interference in women’s reproductive health decisions is becoming even more salient to women’s economic justice than it has been since Roe v Wade was enacted. If this is part of Congressional candidates fulfilling their promises to work on jobs and the economy, it is certainly not helpful to women and their economic concerns.