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The Fight Continues Against the 20-Week Ban

The Fight Continues Against the 20-Week Ban

This week, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), a dangerous bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of gestation with only narrow exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life is in danger.

In advance of Wednesday’s vote, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism, issued a statement to emphasize the Reform Movement’s strong opposition to H.R. 36 and our firm belief in a woman’s fundamental right to make her own health care decisions. The statement reads, in part: 

The women who need access to later abortions are often facing desperate circumstances, such as birth defects or fetal diseases that are undetectable until around the 20-week mark. To cut off abortion access at 20 weeks—an arbitrary point in gestation without medical basis—leaves these women without access to a critical health care service. Government policies must not restrict a woman’s right to make medical decisions in concert with her family, her doctor, her clergy, and whomever else she chooses to include.

H.R. 36 is part of a trend of anti-abortion bills at both the federal and state level. In recent years, Congress and state governments have increasingly sought to restrict access to reproductive health care, a step by step approach to stripping women of their right to make informed decisions about their bodies, their families and their lives. These include dangerous and restrictive policies like the building regulations and physician admitting privileges recently passed in Texas (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws, known as TRAP laws), the mandatory 72-hour waiting period that Missouri enacted last summer and bans on abortion after an arbitrary point in gestation—like H.R. 36—which currently exist in nine states.

The House originally planned to vote on the bill in January, on the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Though it was expected that H.R. 36 would pass easily, a group of House Republicans indicated at the last minute that they would oppose the bill for its requirement that rape survivors report their assault to law enforcement in order receive an exemption to access abortion services. House leadership “fixed” the bill by amending this provision by requiring survivors either to report to law enforcement, or to see a medical professional at least 48 hours before the abortion, at a different clinic than the one performing the abortion. Though this requirement may seem more compassionate, patients would have to schedule two appointments, in two places—and to pay for both. Depending on the availability of health care services in her area, this requirement could be impossible.

The Reform Movement has long opposed 20-week bans and other legislation that undermines women’s fundamental dignity to make informed decisions about their own health. We believe firmly in a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and to have safe, legal and affordable access to health care.

Our tradition emphasizes the sanctity of all life. By restricting abortion access after 20 weeks, H.R. 36 would endanger women’s ability to seek medical care to maintain the sanctity of their own lives. As our tradition commands women to care for their own health and well-being above all else, we must continue to fight to ensure that all women and their families have safe, legal and affordable access to all health care services, and that those services are not cut off after any given point in a pregnancy. Take action today; urge your Senators to oppose restrictive anti-choice bills like the 20-week ban!

Published: 5/15/2015

Categories: Social Justice