In the past few weeks, right-wing politicians have continued their totally unscientific, sexist march against a women’s right to choose.
On May 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The name of this atrocious act would be laughable, adeptly written into a satirical piece caricaturing the absolute control over women’s bodies in a right-wing society, except for the fact that it really happened. A group of elected officials named a bill this way in 2015, and then it passed a chamber of Congress.
First of all, a fetus is NOT an unborn child. It has the potential to be a baby yes, but it is a fetus, developmentally incapable of surviving outside the womb. You don’t need to have birthed a child—although I have—to know full well that a child and a fetus are two totally different things. Luckily, it’s not just common sense. Science is on the side of reason in this case.
Second of all, there is no clear scientific proof that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks old. It is NOT “pain-capable.” A set of evidence published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2005 by experts on the issue, states: “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” That’s 28 weeks after conception.
The original language of the bill required rape and incest survivors to report to the police before seeking an exemption from the abortion ban. That language was revised but the bill still seeks to impose a 48-hour waiting period before survivors can have an abortion. The name and language of the bill reveal it for what it truly is—an attack on women, pure and simple. They wish to deny even women whose bodies have been violently violated the right to terminate a pregnancy, the right to take back control of their bodies.
The current attack (bill) has little likelihood of passing the Senate and President Obama has promised a veto should that happen. But the point of this bill, and others like it, is not necessarily just to get passed. The bill’s supporters would be overjoyed to see it passed but its existence and the campaign behind it is far more nefarious. The purpose is to build a bit-by-bit campaign to fully undermine a women’s right to choose—which despite much evidence to the contrary—is actually the law of the land. It was won by a militant women’s movement in the 1970s in the form of a Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.
The right wing is attempting to build a case against a women’s right to choose. The New York Times documents 37 anti-abortion laws passed in 11 states in the first five months of this year. Over the past four years, hundreds of these bills have been passed and many hundreds more defeated by the organizing of women and their organizations and supporters.
Womens’ rights organizing can be powerful in the face of this campaign. Attempts in Albuquerque to pass the first municipal abortion ban were soundly defeated last year. And this past Friday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 2011 Idaho “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” banning abortions after 20 weeks.
And a recent Gallup poll showed that 50 percent of people in the country support abortion rights—the first time in 7 years that pro-choice views have trumped anti-choice views. Our struggle not only to defend Roe v. Wade but to win the right to abortion on demand as a genuine healthcare right, as a human right, must continue!