The XX Factor

House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban With Exciting New Hassles for Rape Victims 

Rep. Trent Franks, picture here in 2011, introduced the 20-week abortion ban in January.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Back in January, a handful of Republican women in Congress stopped a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The women, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, didn’t object to the ban, but were worried that it was unduly hard on rape victims, forcing them to produce a police report in order not to bear a rapist’s child. Republicans tweaked the language to take out that requirement, and on Wednesday afternoon, they passed the bill, with all but two Republicans voting for it. 

Still, Republicans made sure that rape victims still have to undergo unnecessary hassles to get an abortion. As reported by Rachel Maddow and RH Reality Check, rape victims have to endure a 48-hour waiting period to get the abortion. And a woman can’t start the clock by going to her abortion provider: She has to find someone else—another doctor or counselor—to begin the 48-hour period. Which means more paperwork and more money to shell out, which will likely extend the waiting period past two days for many women, who have to do their jobs and live their lives while also filling out pointless forms and running around to make-work appointments. Guess rape victims should have thought about that before they got raped. 

Republicans say this bill is necessary because fetuses after 20 weeks of development can feel pain. This is, of course, an entirely false claim; what’s more, the required waiting period gives the game away. If an abortion at 20 weeks is immoral, why is an abortion at 21 weeks—after you’ve jumped through your waiting period and paperwork hoops—OK? This bill’s goal isn’t to protect fetuses; as with all attacks on reproductive rights, the goal is to punish and control women—even women who are perceived as “innocent” because they didn’t choose the sex that got them pregnant. 

The good news is that this bill has no chance of becoming law; even on the off-chance it reached President Obama’s desk, he would veto it. But Republicans’ doggedness about this entirely symbolic attack on women’s rights shows that, despite hopeful claims to the contrary, the religious right still wholly owns the Republican Party.