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House Takes Up 20-Week Abortion Ban as White House Threatens Veto

House Takes Up 20-Week Abortion Ban as White House Threatens Veto

June 18, 2013 — The White House on Monday threatened to veto a bill (HR 1797) that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, noting in a statement that the measure would "unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose," CQ HealthBeat reports.

The House Rules Committee on Monday advanced the measure by voice vote, and the full House is scheduled to take it up Tuesday (Khatami/Militana, CQ HealthBeat, 6/17). The legislation is not likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate (Hook, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 6/17).

The bill, proposed by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that fetuses can experience pain at that point. At the time of the Judiciary Committee's approval, the bill included exceptions to save a woman's life in some instances but not in cases of rape or incest.

After Franks made controversial remarks about the incidence of pregnancies caused by rape, the Rules Committee revised the measure to include exceptions in instances of incest of a minor or rape if either type of incident has been reported "at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/17).

The White House in its statement of administration policy said the legislation "is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution" (Dumain, "GOPpers," CQ Roll Call, 6/17).

States Push Similar Abortion Restrictions

Although Franks' bill is not expected to become law, several states are considering and implementing similar legislation, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, conservative state lawmakers pushing the bills are motivated in part by a vocal antiabortion-rights voter base seeking additional abortion restrictions in response to the conviction of illegal abortion provider Kermit Gosnell.

Since 2010, 11 states have banned abortion at or around 20 weeks, although judges have blocked the laws in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho. Another three states -- Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin -- are considering similar legislation.

In total, 92 laws restricting abortion took effect in 2011, followed by another 43 in 2012, according to the Guttmacher Institute (Peters, New York Times, 6/17).