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House Committee Advances 20-Week Abortion Ban Over Democrats' Objections

House Committee Advances 20-Week Abortion Ban Over Democrats' Objections

June 13, 2013 — The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 20-12 to advance a bill (HR 1797) that would impose a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports (Blake, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 6/12).

The bill -- sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) -- is based on the disputed theory that fetuses can experience pain at 20 weeks. It would permit exceptions to save a woman's life in certain instances but not in cases of rape or incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/5).

The full House is expected to approve the bill as early as next week, Republican House leaders said. However, it is not expected to advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate (Peters, New York Times, 6/12).

Committee Markup

During Wednesday's markup, Democrats offered various amendments to broaden exceptions to the abortion ban, but Republicans rejected the proposals (Viebeck [1], "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/12).

One defeated amendment, authored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), would have allowed exceptions when an abortion is needed to protect a woman's health, rather than only to avert death. The amendment also would have removed language explicitly excluding mental health issues as a reason to permit an abortion after 20 weeks.

Another amendment, offered by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), would have allowed exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest (Anderson, CQ Roll Call, 6/12).

Rep. Franks' Rape Comment Prompts Outcry

Franks sparked an outcry from Democrats and liberal commentators when he responded to criticism that the bill contains no exceptions for rape survivors. Franks said that instances of pregnancies from rape are "very low." Later, he attempted to clarify that he meant pregnancies from rape "that result in abortion beginning after the sixth month are very rare" (New York Times, 6/12).

The Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly circulated Franks' comments, comparing the statement to previous controversial and inaccurate comments conservatives have made about rape and pregnancy.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said there is no "scientific basis" for Franks' assertion that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low. She added, "The idea that the Republican men on this committee think they can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous" (Viebeck [2], "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/12).