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NYT: 20-Week Ban Marks Another Effort 'To Undercut Women's Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights'

NYT: 20-Week Ban Marks Another Effort 'To Undercut Women's Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights'

May 15, 2015 — "For the second time in two years, the House voted Wednesday to pass legislation that would ban almost all abortions 20 weeks or more after fertilization," marking yet "another attempt by conservative [lawmakers] to undercut women's constitutionally protected reproductive rights," a New York Times editorial states.

The editorial explains that the 20-week ban not only is "a restriction before fetal viability that violates ... Roe v. Wade" but also is based on medically unsupported claims that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development.

According to the editorial, the measure -- which was revised amid objections to reporting requirements in the rape exception provision -- only "allows [adult] rape victims to obtain an abortion if they've received counseling or medical care at least 48 hours before the procedure." Further, the editorial notes that the bill "does not make an exception for the health of the [woman], as current law requires"; only permits abortion after 20 weeks' gestation "if the [woman's] life is in danger, which could mean a woman with health problems would have to wait until her pregnancy threatened her life"; and "also lacks an exception for fetal [anomalies], some of which are detectable only late in a pregnancy."

However, the bill "is unlikely to pass the Senate," the editorial states, adding that, "[i]f it does, the White House has made it clear that President Obama will veto it."

According to the editorial, "increasingly onerous restrictions imposed on abortion at the state level may actually be causing some women to delay their procedures into the second trimester and beyond." The editorial cites a 2013 study that found that women seeking "abortions after 20 weeks were more than twice as likely as women who sought first-trimester procedures to report that difficulty traveling to a clinic delayed them" and that they also were "delayed by problems with insurance coverage."

"Making it hard to get an abortion early in a pregnancy -- by restricting the use of health insurance for abortion, closing clinics and mandating waiting periods -- and then banning the procedure after 20 weeks would essentially prohibit abortion for those with limited resources," the editorial continues. The editorial adds that while such a result might be the goal of some conservative lawmakers, "it would be disastrous for American women and families, especially those who cannot afford to travel long distances or pay for medical procedures out-of-pocket" (New York Times, 5/14).