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Rep. Franks Proposes Nationwide Ban on Abortions After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

Rep. Franks Proposes Nationwide Ban on Abortions After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

May 20, 2013 — Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Friday that he will expand his proposed bill (HR 1797) that would ban abortion later in pregnancy in Washington, D.C., to apply nationwide, the Huffington Post reports.

The bill -- the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act -- would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The measure directly challenges the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which prohibits banning abortion prior to viability, typically up to 24 weeks (Bassett, Huffington Post, 5/17).

Last year, Franks introduced a nearly identical bill (HR 3803) that failed under a suspension of the rules, a procedure under which bills need the support of at least two-thirds of House members to pass (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/30).

Decision To Expand Abortion Ban

In a statement, Franks said the case of Kermit Gosnell spurred him to alter his bill to apply beyond the district. Last week, Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder for the deaths of infants born alive after illegal abortion procedures.

"Indeed, let us not forget that, had Kermit Gosnell dismembered these babies before they had traveled down the birth canal only moments earlier, he would have, in many places nationwide, been performing an entirely legal procedure," Franks said.

Abortions performed after 24 weeks are rare; CDC estimates that slightly more than 1% of procedures are conducted after that time and that most of those involve a severe fetal abnormality or are to protect the health of the woman (Huffington Post, 5/17).

This Week's Hearing

Franks will revise his measure Thursday at a hearing of House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. The bill could be approved by the House, but it has little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, according to The Hill's "Healthwatch" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/17).

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) already planned to testify at the hearing against the bill on behalf of D.C. residents. In a statement Friday, she pledged to continue to fight for the measure's defeat now that it applies to many more women.

"With the help of women nationwide, we defeated the D.C. abortion ban bill on the House floor last Congress," Norton said, adding, "Now that the Franks bill will expressly target all U.S. women, we can expect an even stronger national response to this attack on women's health" (Huffington Post, 5/17).