Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to vote on at least two anti-abortion bills this week.
The bills are unlikely to go anywhere, as the Senate is controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden will likely veto any anti-abortion bills that reach his desk. Instead, the votes are an attempt to demonstrate to the GOP’s base that the party intends to continue its anti-abortion crusade.
A “born alive” bill that is up for a vote this week would require abortion providers (in states where the practice is still legal) to provide life-saving care to infants born after an attempted abortion.
Situations like this are virtually impossible; when they do take place, they’re generally the result of a late miscarriage or an abortion attempted to save the life of a pregnant patient. “Born alive” legislation is shrouded in misinformation and could have dire consequences, health experts say — including restricting the medical interventions that pregnant people can receive during life-threatening emergencies.
Such laws “could force physicians to perform care on infants that would prolong their lives for a short time but not save them, in some cases meaning parents could not hold the infant if they choose,” according to a report from The 19th.
“It’s an entirely fabricated political concept,” said Jen Villavicencio, a Washington D.C.-based OB-GYN, referring to “born alive” proposals. “This idea is not something that really exists in medicine the way it is described in these bills…. It’s certainly not science-based and certainly not based in care for families and pregnant individuals.”
Another bill that is up for consideration would codify Hyde Amendment bans on using federal funds for abortions. The bill would bar the funding of health benefits plans that cover abortion services, and could potentially extend to companies that contract with the federal government. The legislation would also bar health care facilities owned or operated by the federal government from performing abortions, even in states where abortion is legal if done in a federally-managed entity.
Some Republicans have noted that passing anti-abortion bills could be a political risk, as the issue likely prevented the party from winning big in the midterms.
“We learned nothing from the midterms if this is how we’re going to operate in the first week,” Rep. Nancy Mace (South Carolina) told Politico, noting that “millions of women across the board were angry over overturning Roe v. Wade,” the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that was overturned last summer.
“If we’re going to get serious about saving lives, and maybe we should include access to birth control, that would make sense, right?” Mace added. “What are we doing to protect women who are victims of rape or victims of incest? We’re doing nothing.”
Some abortion rights activists have questioned whether Mace’s concern is genuine, pointing out her consistently anti-abortion record.
“Nancy Mace who voted for every abortion ban and restriction in the SC legislature and sponsored the personhood bill in Congress — now she’s pretending to care about women?” said Vicki Ringer, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic South Carolina.
Recent polling suggests that most Americans are opposed to further restrictions on abortion. In an Economist/YouGov poll published this week, 58 percent of respondents said that abortion should always be legal, or that there should only be “some” restrictions on the procedure. Only 29 percent said it should be legal in “special circumstances,” while just 13 percent said it should be banned entirely.
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