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House Subpanel Expands, Advances 20-Week Abortion Ban Legislation

House Subpanel Expands, Advances 20-Week Abortion Ban Legislation

June 5, 2013 — A House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday advanced a measure (HR 1797) that would ban many abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy after amending the bill to apply nationwide, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/4).

The bill -- sponsored by subcommittee Chair Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) -- originally applied only to Washington, D.C., but Franks last month announced plans to expand it to apply nationwide in response to the case of illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who was recently convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of newborn infants, along with hundreds of other charges (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/24).

The bill is based on the disputed theory that fetuses can experience pain at 20 weeks. It would permit exceptions to save a woman's life but not in cases of rape or incest ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/4).

Bill's Prospects

It is unclear whether House GOP leaders will bring the bill to the floor, according to CQ Roll Call's "Goppers." Further, House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) has not stated whether he will bring it before the full committee (Dumain, "Goppers," CQ Roll Call, 6/4).

Last year, Franks introduced a similar bill (HR 3803) -- which applied only to Washington, D.C. -- but it failed to pass the House because it was considered under a procedure that requires bills to receive the support of at least two-thirds of members to pass (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/24).

Franks believes this year's bill could gain traction with GOP leaders looking for a way to respond to the Gosnell trial, according to "Goppers" ("Goppers," CQ Roll Call, 6/4).

Abortion-rights groups are fighting the bill. Nancy Northup -- president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights -- said in a statement, "It is astonishing that the Subcommittee on the Constitution would support such a clear affront to the U.S. Constitution -- especially when everywhere similar laws have been challenged in the courts, they have been immediately blocked" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/4).