The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday 228 to 196 that prohibits women from having abortions 20 weeks after conception. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, authored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), bans abortions after 20 weeks, based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain at that point. It contains exceptions for women whose lives are in danger as well as some rape and incest victims who can prove that they reported their assaults to criminal authorities, but it contains no exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or situations in which the woman’s health is threatened by her pregnancy.
Opponents of the bill, including the White House, took issue with its narrow exceptions and argued that it interferes with a woman’s constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. The bill directly challenges the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, which protects the right to end a pregnancy up until the fetus is viable outside the womb — usually around 24 weeks.
“Forty years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that women in America have the constitutional right to make their own health care decisions without the government getting involved,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday. “Today, instead of focusing on creating jobs and improving our economy, the House majority is once again playing doctor and trying to tell American women what they can and can’t do, despite what the Constitution tells them they can do. House Republicans need to abandon their war on women and start working on the issues Americans care about.”
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