The U.S. House of Representatives pushed through legislation creating new restrictions on abortion last week.
The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” sponsored by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks (R-CD8), passed 242-184 on a mostly party-line vote; four Democrats voted for the bill, while four Republicans voted against it. It would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life was in danger.
The legislation had stalled earlier this year over provisions that the required victims of rape or incest report the crimes to authorities in order to be able to terminate pregnancies.
Among Southern Arizona lawmakers, Republican Martha McSally voted in favor of the new restrictions while Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ann Kirkpatrick voted against the bill.
The bill has little chance of becoming law; even if it were to pass the U.S. Senate, it would face an almost-certain veto from President Barack Obama. A January statement of administration policy noted that Obama’s advisors would recommend that he reject the legislation, noting that the bill "is a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s holdings on abortion. Not only is the basis for H.R. 36 scientifically disputed, the bill disregards women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”
Pro-choice advocates say that only a tiny percentage of abortions—less than 2 percent nationally—happen after 20 weeks. That’s sometimes because the mother discovers that the fetus has developed a serious birth defect, such as organs growing outside of the body. In such cases, women face the heartbreaking choice between aborting the pregnancy or giving birth to a child who cannot survive for long—if at all—outside the womb. The legislation would require the women to give birth in those cases.
McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak didn’t directly address the question of restricting abortion options for women who discover their children have significant birth defects after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but he said McSally voted in favor of the bill because she “believes in the dignity of life while ensuring protections for women who are victims of rape or incest and in cases when the life of the mother is threatened.”