House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban

The bill has an exception for rape survivors, but it's a narrow one.
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Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks — a law that is incompatible with Roe v. Wade's requirement that abortion be legal up until the point of fetal viability, and that legal observers say is likely unconstitutional. A vote on a similar bill was canceled in January, after both abortion rights proponents and Republican women voiced concern — and then outrage — that the bill contained no exceptions for rape survivors.

The bill that passed today does have an exception for rape survivors, but it's a narrow one: Women who were raped must receive medical care or counseling at least 48 hours before they have the procedure. So while rape victims can technically get abortions after 20 weeks, they have to jump through another hoop and delay their care by at least two days.

"As if it weren't enough to severely limit women's options for confronting potentially devastating challenges during their pregnancies, this noxious legislation would also require rape survivors to undergo additional medical care or counseling whether they want it or not," Nancy Northup, the CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "This bill is a danger to women's lives and well-being, an affront to their dignity, and a threat to the rights and liberties all Americans hold dear. Congress must reject this callous and unconstitutional bill."

Abortion rights will almost surely be at issue in the 2016 presidential race, and the candidates voiced their support or opposition down party lines. Republican Jeb Bush, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy, tweeted his support before the vote took place:

And Hillary Clinton demonstrated her skepticism of the bill, and political intrusions into women's health care generally:

Minutes after the bill passed, Hillary for America senior policy advisor Maya Harris released a statement on behalf of the campaign, saying in part, "This bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, which has protected a woman's constitutional right to privacy for over forty years. The bill puts women's health and rights at risk, undermines the role doctors play in health care decisions, burdens survivors of sexual assault, and is not based on sound science."

Even if the bill does pass in the Senate, which is not a guarantee, President Barack Obama will almost surely veto it.

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