Yesterday, The House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortions after 20-weeks of gestation. The justification of the bill is a disputed theory that fetuses feel pain 20 weeks after conception. That is problematic in itself, but perhaps what is most problematic is the continued attempt of a large number of politicians to make standard medical decisions on behalf of patients and doctors. Yes, that is what this is about as well as the overt attempt to shore up the patriarchal control of women’s bodies our society has insisted it has the right to do for centuries. But this is also a simple privacy and health issue. Before Roe v. Wade, women seeking abortions for medical and other reasons took a huge health risk as it was an unregulated medical procedure. With the legalization of abortion, in addition to protecting privacy and right to determine what is done with their own bodies, women also ensured that a relatively simple medical procedure would be done properly by certified physicians and clinics. The number of women who suffered from injury or died as the result of abortion procedures declined drastically. Safe legal abortions are about health, societal and corporeal.
It would be easy to brush off this bill as doomed to fail as so many others have on the federal level since Roe v. Wade. But this last year has seen a startling number of state statutes severely restricting access to pregnancy termination procedures in the form of defunding, direct gestation time restrictions, and superfluous requirements for clinics and physicians performing such procedures. While many of these bills or laws will be challenged as unconstitutional, Tuesday’s passing of a similar bill by the U.S. House of Representatives indicates to the states that they have friends in the federal government willing to take up their fight. And recent news about other lawful behaviors of the federal government that are backed by the judicial system should raise questions about the supposed separation of powers on the federal level.
What concerns me most about this abortion restriction bill passed by the House is the message of support it sends to state legislative bodies that have passed or are trying to pass similar laws. It’s like your older sibling giving you a wink and nod as you stick your hand in the cookie jar when mom and dad aren’t looking. The vote was a little too close for comfort (228-196), especially during the volatile election period we’ve been in for the past 8 years. Ultimately, we should be supporting and fighting for the rights to control our own bodies, to make our own informed medical decisions with our physicians, and not leave it to the man sitting behind the large mahogany desk who doesn’t even know our name.