Earlier this week, cold winds and snow blew in the morning of Tuesday, January 6 in the Washington DC metro area. January 6 was also the same day of the start of the 114th Session of Congress. One of my friends, a feminist activist joked “It’s not foreboding or anything that Winter Has Come the day the new Congress is getting sworn in, right? Right?!” She was in fact referring to the now newly GOP controlled Senate combined with the already GOP controlled House.
The Game of Thrones joke was apropos because first day back, what does the Republican Party find is the most important thing to take up? A New Jobs Bill? A New Infrastructure Bill? Perhaps they’ve taken up something on foreign policy? NOPE. They introduced legislation that would ban abortion nationally at about 20 weeks. And yes, it is in direct violation of Roe v. Wade.
Currently the House of Representatives has only introduced this measure. Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This legislation did pass the House when it was introduced last year, not surprising as anti-choice GOP members control the House Chamber. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also introduced a companion measure in the Senate but since Senate Democrats (who are overwhelmingly pro-choice) had the majority, they stalled it. Graham has already indicated he will be introducing his own measure in the next few weeks and in a newly controlled GOP Senate, with Senators even more conservative (if that is even possible) than Senator Graham, it will be sure to pass.
Perhaps I’d be less concerned, if I thought that perhaps the GOP leadership in the Senate would err on the side of…. I don’t know…working on things of concern to most American people (jobs, anyone??) especially since Senator McConnell as Leader of the Senate GOP said they would be focusing on jobs, tax reform etc in previous interviews. As the Leader of the Senate, McConnell can control what legislation does or does not get onto the floor of the Senate. However, Senator Mitch McConnell also has urged for the passage of a 20 week ban before and he reiterated his pledge to back it at a recent National Right to Life Conference last year.
Nevermind, the legislation is pointless, at least for three of reasons.
- Doctors do agree that fetuses cannot survive outside the womb until about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy
- Scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that fetuses cannot feel pain until long at least the third trimester
- Women who seek abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is in such a small percentage and often do so because of severe medical complications, such as a grave fetal anomaly or health risk to the mother.
Not to mention a majority of Americans support abortion rights after 20 weeks and before viability once they are made aware of the real-life circumstances women face. Something you’d think would interest legislators who do look at polls to gauge public opinion on changing times.
But, here we are.
Many of the pro-choice organizations who work on legislation have whipped up into action. From NARAL Pro-Choice America’s email the message is clear: “With only 37 strongly pro-choice senators left after the election, we need to get at least four undecided senators to get the 41 votes we need to stop it.”
NARAL’s email points out clearly: elections matter. You couldn’t tell from last cycle because according to pollsters it was the lowest turnout across the entire electorate last year. Midterms aren’t as sexy as the Presidential race, I know. And I know people are frustrated with the broken cycle that is Washington. I mean people who’ve made a living in government I know on BOTH sides of the aisle are really done with the inability to do much legislatively. BUT, elections still do matter.
Case in point: In Virginia, when faced with the possibility of having Ken Cuccinelli as Governor, a man who as Attorney General made it is his mission to force the reluctant Virginia Board of Health to enact TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations, Virginia voters, known to swing a lot further right than center right at times, across the state balked. Weary from Cuccinelli, and an overreaching anti-choice Virginia General Assembly that proposed the wonders of the transvaginal ultrasound, pro-choice Democrat Terry McAuliffe and his slate who were also prochoice Lt. Governor candidate Ralph Northam and Attorney General candidate Mark Herring were swept into statewide office. Now Virginia has a Governor who has gone on record saying no more abortion clinics will be closed.
Forever remaining vigilant on reproductive rights rollbacks seems to be the weight to bear for those who actively work on pro-choice movement issues. But even if you are not a daily activist, but you care about this issue even in the slightest? Don’t forget the importance of voting, because people’s lives depend on it.