House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban; Exempts Women From Prosecution

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a 20-week abortion ban in the form of a bill called H.R. 36, also known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a 20-week abortion ban in the form of a bill called H.R. 36, also known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

If H.R. 36 passes in the Senate and subsequently is signed by President Donald Trump, the bill would make a significant amendment to the federal criminal code: If anyone performs or attempts to perform an abortion on a fetus that has a gestational age of 20 weeks or more, he or she is subject to criminal penalties.

Additionally, the proposed 20-week abortion ban provides two exceptions: 1) if an abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or 2) if the pregnancy results from rape or incest. Most notably, the bill stipulates that a woman who undergoes a prohibited abortion is exempt from prosecution for violating the terms of the bill. Only the person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion is liable to criminal penalties—a fine and/or up to five years in prison.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona), has introduced similar bills in the past, but this is the first time that such a bill has both passed the House and has received support from the President’s administration.

Critics of the bill include Amy Friedrich-Karnik of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who told the LA Times that the bill is a “direct attack on women’s autonomy” and “inserts politicians into… the doctor’s room.”

Likewise, Planned Parenthood has been outspoken about its disapproval of H.R. 36, stating that “20-week bans are unconstitutional20-week bans are a clear attempt to erode Roe v. Wade.”

Proponents of the bill recognize the difficult road of getting it passed in the Senate, yet remain optimistic. In a public statement for the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) remarked:

Now that scientific research has shown that unborn children at 20 weeks are capable of feeling pain, we can no longer ignore the suffering brought on by late-term abortions. I am pleased that the House of Representatives has responded to protect these vulnerable children from the violence of abortion.

Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, told The Washington Times: “We have hope. Unless we start to make these strides on one side, then we won’t on the other side. The partial-birth abortion ban took a long time to get passed and ultimately enacted. So I see it a little bit like that.”

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Both critics and proponents eagerly await the Senate’s deliberation and ultimate decision on this bill. You can track the status of H.R. 36 through GovTrack or the bill’s designated page on Congress’ website.

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