Federal Legislation Strives to Restrict Abortion Rights for D.C. Women
Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) has introduced the latest bill that would severely restrict women’s reproductive rights—and this one is targeted at D.C. women, even though the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973 granted D.C. residents the right to govern their own affairs. In January, Rep. Franks introduced a bill—the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803)—that would ban abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks, echoing a pattern of later-term abortion bills in Alabama, Nebraska and seven other states.
There is a serious misconception that those who seek abortion services after 20 weeks are either too lazy or irresponsible to get them earlier in their pregnancies or are indecisive and therefore shouldn’t be permitted to make such an important decision. However, in reality, women who are seeking abortions after the 20-week mark are often doing so because there is a complication with their pregnancy that threatens their health or because of a fetal anomaly. Rep. Franks’ bill does not include exceptions for rape, incest or for fetal anomalies.
The rationale for the 20-week marker is that, according to “gynecological expert” Representative Franks, 20 weeks is the point at which a fetus can feel pain. This is just another way in which advcates are using fake science to advance their anti-choice agenda.
The proposed legislation is in direct contrast with the values we learn through our Jewish tradition. All life is sacred in Judaism. Although an unborn fetus is precious and to be protected, Judaism views the life and well-being of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life. Women are commanded to care for their own health and well-being above all else. Therefore, there are several instances when Judaism not only condones abortions, but mandates them.
But the intrusion on women’s rights isn’t the only disturbing intrusion contained in this bill. H.R. 3803 also intrudes on the District of Columbia’s right to govern itself. In fact, Rep. Franks refused to allow D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to testify at a hearing about a bill that would directly affect only her constituents. In Congresswoman Norton’s place, the Democrats called Christy Zink, a D.C. professor who had an abortion at 21 weeks because she found that her fetus would be born with a significant brain abnormality. In her testimony, she countered the Republicans’ claim that banning abortions after 20 weeks would reduce the amount of pain a fetus would feel:
“Its very premise – that it prevents pain – is a lie. If this bill had been passed before my pregnancy, I would have had to carry to term and give birth to a baby whom the doctors concurred had no chance of a life and would have experienced near-constant pain. If he had survived the pregnancy—which was not certain—he might have never left the hospital... The decision I made to have an abortion at almost 22 weeks was made out of love and to spare my son’s pain and suffering."
This abortion ban is yet another instance of Congress attempting to restrict a woman’s right to make choices about her own health needs and implementing laws that insinuate that women can’t be trusted with their own medical decisions.