After they gave up on repealing Obamacare and revising the tax code to provide tax cuts for the rich, the House just passed a bill that restricts abortion after 20 weeks. Like the Obamacare repeal bill that they passed more than 50 times, it is a typical piece of political posturing, pandering to the Religious Right, and it will probably never be enacted into law. The Senate has no plans to consider it, and it would probably be subject to a Democratic filibuster if Republicans could manage to get a majority to vote for it, also doubtful.
First let’s look at some facts about abortion in the US. Here are some statistics from Fox Noise, hardly a pro-choice proponent:
“Of the 1.6 million abortions performed in the U.S. each year, 91 percent are performed during the first trimester (12 or fewer weeks’ gestation); 9 percent are performed in the second trimester (24 or fewer weeks’ gestation); and only about 100 are performed in the third trimester (more than 24 weeks’ gestation), approximately .01 percent of all abortions performed.” (See Note)
Most of those final 100 abortions are performed because of a medical condition that puts the woman’s life in danger. If abortions are limited to 20 weeks, only about 1% of those 1.6 million abortions will be affected. The law specifically exempts cases where the woman’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. The number of elective abortions not exempted under the proposed law must be vanishingly small.
Other than political posturing, why would Republicans try to pass such a law if its effect on the abortion rate is insignificant? Here is one possible reason, and to understand it, look at how Obamacare was passed. Initially, Democrats proposed a pretty comprehensive health care program for all US citizens. After many months of haggling with Republicans and some reluctant Democrats, Obama was forced to accept some compromises that left the resultant legislation with significant flaws. Obama recognized this, but decided to go ahead with it. He said it was a start, and he hoped to improve it in future legislation. But it did establish the principle that all citizens are entitled to health care.What Republicans are doing with their proposed 20-week limit on abortion is almost a mirror-image of the Obamacare process. They would like to pass a law prohibiting abortion completely, but they realize that is not politically possible. So, they came up with the idea of a 20-week limit which will not affect most women, hoping they can sneak it through. It will establish a principle that a woman’s access to abortion can be limited by federal law. And then, they will try to kill abortion with death by a thousand cuts…incremental reductions in the 20-week time limit which they hope to pass with future legislation.
Obamacare started as a good program, and was watered down by compromises, with hopes for future improvements. The Republican assault on women’s choice starts out innocuously, with plans for future revisions that will be disastrous for women.
This legislation deserves to be added to the growing trash pile of failed legislation attempted by the Trump administration. Let’s hope it meets that fate.
NOTE: From Fox Fast Facts: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/06/17/fast-facts-us-abortion-statistics.html
Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan engineering school, and then pursued a career in software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two. Many of his writings are posted on his web site, bigelowbert.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org