Thursday in Washington D.C. saw the passage of a major Republican anti-abortion bill in the House of Representatives by a vote of 242 to 179. The bill was put before the House instead of a separate, more extreme anti-abortion bill authored by Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Should it pass the Senate, the bill would be a major loss for right-to-choose proponents. To fully understand what it entails, one has to unpack H.R.7 and see what actions would be restricted under the national change.
What does the bill change?
The bill seeks to make it illegal for abortions to be paid for by taxpayer money. No federal funding could legally be put toward abortions, nor could health care plans that cover abortions receive federal financing — not just for those abortions, but in general. Exceptions were made in the case of rape, incest, or physical danger to the mother. It was also noted that the rule did not apply for issues that arise as a result of an abortion. No employees or facilities under the ownership or employ of the U.S. government would be able to perform abortions.
The bill is careful to clarify that this does not ban abortion and Americans can choose to seek coverage and treatment outside of those institutions which receive federal funding, employ federal workers, or that have insurance funded by taxpayer dollars. It does not affect a state’s ability to make agreements with coverage groups, unless that state does so in a way that involves federal funds. Will it make it through the Senate?
The bill that just passed is highly similar to other bills that have made it through the House, and it’s considerably more moderate than the alternate bill, which Republican Representatives chose not to put forward. But it has also obviously been an unsuccessful attempt in the past. The Senate may consider the more extreme bill — which would only allow rape victims abortions if they made a report with the police — something that anyone who knows anything about sexual assault and abuse can testify is often not the case. In fact, according to the National Organization for Women (NOW), data from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau showed that between 1994 and 2010, only 35% of victims reported that they had been raped. “Frequently, survivors of sexual assault feel shame and do not wish to come forward, while others … believe that the justice system will not help them.” Others fear their attacker, especially in the case of incest.
According to the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he’d bring that bill to a vote. So a less extreme version might garner support, though it would be challenging even with the new post-midterm split. Even if the Senate, now a majority Republican, were to pass the bill, it would not pass the president’s desk.
What do proponents say?
“H.R. 7 will save lives,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) a sponsor of the bill, speaking to the House floor. “These are gruesome procedures. That’s what abortion is all about.” In the Republican State of the Union rebuttal, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) made a short mention of the GOP’s intentions, saying that the new Congress would be working to “defend life, because protecting our most vulnerable is an important measure of any society.” Even Republicans were resistant to the more controversial bill that was replaced by H.R. 7, specifically because of its handling of rape. As a result, even the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) was careful in speaking on the topic. According to the Washington Post, he said he was keeping an open mind. “I realize that all of the people involved have sincere perspective and have knowledge and experiences and information that I don’t have,” he said. What do opponents say?
“These choices are personal. They are not public. A woman’s actions regarding her own reproductive health should include anyone she deems appropriate, not the politicians in Washington or state capitals that are scoring political points off of her healthcare,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) according to The Hill. Planned Parenthood points out that as of 2014, “57% of women lived in a state that is either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights,” and asked Congress to protect the right to choose with legislation preventing further reduction of women’s access. Clearly that particular request went unheeded. “Women’s rights should not be theater, should not be drama,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, (D-Tenn.), according to ABC News.
More Politics Cheat Sheet:
- Abortion Clinics Stay Open: But What’s Texas Missing?
- Anti-Abortion Legislation on the Rise in Southern States
- Does Obamacare SCOTUS Ruling Mean Trouble for Abortion Rights?
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