The Senate Republican majority never tires of pushing anti-abortion legislation and so is expected to vote soon — despite more pressing business — on a 20-week abortion ban that isn’t likely to overcome a filibuster.
UPDATE: The vote was 51-46. Nine short.
Late-term abortions, when a fetus is (or might be) nearing viability, are emotional and thus red meat for demagogues. If only it was so easy.
Twenty-week abortions are exceedingly rare and, despite what anti-choice forces would have you believe, almost never a thoughtless act or a matter of convenience.
According to Arkansas Health Department data, only 26 of the 3,027 abortions performed in Arkansas in 2016 were done at a gestational age of 19 weeks or later. In one year when statistics were compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (2013), exactly ZERO abortions were performed at 20 weeks or later.
Many women aren’t aware of problem pregnancies until about the 19th week when ultrasounds are performed. And, then tough decisions sometimes become necessary, whether on account of problems for the fetus or the mother.
An Air Force officer wrote about his own family’s tragic circumstances in trying unsuccessfully to persuade the Arkansas legislature not to vote for a 20-week ban. It passed, Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed it and then it passed over his veto. The law is unconstitutional under existing court precedent barring state bans pre-viability, but the anti-choice forces hope the changing judiciary and Trump’s appointees will eventually provide a path to a Roe v. Wade override. Meanwhile, circumstances necessary for a plaintiff with standing to sue over a 20-week ban and fear of a losing court case ([particularly in the ultra-conservative 8th U.S. Circuit covering Arkansas) contribute to the fact that no challenge has been mounted.
The Air Force family (mother a surgical nurse) learned the child in utero would not survive the term of the pregnancy. They made the gut-wrenching decision to terminate the pregnancy. He wrote:
The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.
The debate about abortion is personal for us. We wanted our child. We do not vote in Arkansas, we are here because I am stationed in Little Rock, and it is where we have to seek medical treatment. Military families like mine with spouses deployed and concerns of their own are subject to this unconscionable law as well.
Arkansas’s attack on abortion and the harsh consequences for people like the Air Force officer were also covered in this important article.
A 20-week ban is only the beginning. Here’s an account of the anti-abortion forces’ push for an eventual end to legal abortion. They are plotting a test law in Mississippi that would impose a 15-week abortion ban, also clearly unconstitutional, as a 12-week ban enacted in Arkansas was.
Right Wing Watch reports on a conference at which :
Alliance Defending Freedom laid out their strategy to “eradicate Roe” by carefully placing increasingly stringent abortion laws in state legislatures in areas where they believe courts will allow them to chip away at legal protections for abortion and ultimately ban the procedure.
The next step after the recent wave of state-level 20-week abortion bans, they said, was attempting to “bait” pro-choice activists into lawsuits with 15-week abortion bans in states where “we think the governors and the A.G.s and the legislatures are going to do the best job at defending these laws.” The said they were starting in Mississippi:
Given the Arkansas legislature, governor and attorney general’s opposition to women’s rights, I’d expect this strategy to emerge soon in the Arkansas legislature, too.
For the record, in 2016 only 270 of the abortions performed that year in Arkansas occurred at 15 weeks or later.
PS: This account of a physician who opted for an abortion for medical reasons is instructive.