Still licking their wounds after defeat earlier this week of yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans in the House of Representatives are focused on trying to score a hollow political victory by again targeting the constitutionally protected right to abortion. The latest attack comes in the form of a House bill—H.R. 36— that would impose an unconstitutional nationwide ban on abortions at an arbitrary cutoff date, with the goal of making it more difficult—or even impossible—for individuals to access abortion. This bill has been introduced several times in the past in the House— but has been unable to pass procedural hurdles to get a vote in the Senate. The bill is now scheduled for a vote in the House next Tuesday—and there are some indications that Senate Republican Leader McConnell might schedule the bill for a vote in the Senate.
This bill is bad not only because it seeks to erode the right to abortion, potentially putting patients’ lives at risk, but also because it ignores the realities of people’s lives and the existing barriers that already make it difficult for individuals—particularly those struggling to make ends meet—to access the care that they need.
Here are the top five reasons why this bill is bad:
- It’s unconstitutional. The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case recognizing the legal right to abortion. Every time a similar abortion ban has been challenged, courts have struck it down.
- It criminalizes abortion providers and interferes with the patient-provider relationship. The bill would penalize abortion providers who perform or attempt to perform abortions after an arbitrary cutoff date with up to five years of imprisonment. This puts the judgment of politicians before a provider’s judgment about the best treatment option given a patient’s particular circumstances and health needs. It interferes with the provider-patient relationship by putting politics before patient’s unique health needs. A patient should make decisions in consultation with a trusted provider, without interference or obstruction from politicians.
- It has nothing to do with science—the nation’s leading association of obstetrics and gynecology health providers, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), has questioned the misrepresentation of research used to justify this and similar bills banning abortions with arbitrary cutoff dates and opposes these bills.
- It does not respect a patient’s particular circumstances, like those carrying pregnancies with serious fetal anomalies or rape survivors, whom the bill would force to seek treatment or counseling in order to obtain an abortion, even though a survivor may not seek treatment or counseling for a variety of reasons.
- It would particularly harm individuals already facing multiple barriers to accessing care, particularly Black, Latina, and Native American patients who are more likely to experience unintended pregnancies due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities.
What is best for a patient’s health, not politics, should determine the care that a patient receives. We must continue the resistance against this and other attempts to erode the legal right to abortion.