If you were still reeling from this week's news out of Las Vegas, you may have missed the House's passage of a 20-week abortion ban on Tuesday. Now it heads to the Senate with 45 fucking co-sponsors, because I guess the GOP has nothing more important to prioritize right now.
"When legislators play politics with their constituents’ health, no one wins," said National Network of Abortion Funds Executive Director Yamani Hernandez in a response to the legislation released today. "This law is intended to punish the most vulnerable. When people are already struggling to make ends meet we should support them, not make more barriers for them. This law would leave patients without anywhere to go to receive abortion care after 20-weeks, against the advice of their healthcare providers and the constitution—that is an injustice."
This is standard-issue pro-choice messaging right down to "[playing] politics," a phrase I'd be pleased not to hear ever again—but the language of punishment is right-on and important. Because here's the thing about this bill: Despite its sensationalist name, the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" isn't based in science. It's simply a bad-faith emotional ploy used to justify a step toward banning access more broadly. Because if you're cool with banning abortions at 20 weeks, why not 15? Cool with 15? How about 12? Go back far enough and you're playing into the right's fuzzy conflation of birth control and abortion. These laws aren't about fetuses feeling pain—most studies suggest fetuses aren't actually capable of feeling pain until 24 weeks' gestation, which is not 20, which means that the problem the bill purports to solve isn't real.
All that said, I understand why the right loves its 20-week abortion bans. If you don't know much about reproductive health policy, 20 weeks seems super late, right? Can the ladies make up their minds already? Why would they wait that long, the hussies! Guess what, most women don't! The vast majority of abortions happen much earlier than that. Later abortions are already surpassingly rare—less than one percent happen at 21 weeks or later—and they're often needed due to fetal or maternal indications.
If you read about later abortions, you'll find they're often really goddamn depressing stories. And anyone who says "I am grossed out by the concept of later abortions, they are sad, make 'em illegal now!" is not someone who should be regulating women's health, which is, you know, brutal and messy in a lot of ways that I guess you can conveniently ignore if you're a cisgender white dude not allowed to eat dinner with non-wives.
ANYWAY. Twenty-week bans should come as no surprise from the same party that denies climate change and has trouble with facts. Because a ban at 20 weeks is not about science. It's about making life worse for women who need access to a legal medical procedure. In other words, it solves a problem that doesn't exist. Just as the GOP's struggle to repeal the ACA solves a problem that doesn't exist, unless you somehow think people having access to health care is a problem.
The Congressional Republicans' capacity to pursue solutions to nonexistent problems time and again is staggering. And they'll likely never do it when it comes to real problems, like regulating assault weapons, which is desperately needed and which Congressional Republicans likely won't act on, likely because so many receive hefty donations from the NRA. How awful to privilege political gain over your constituents' basic safety and survival. How small-minded. How uncompassionate. How undemocratic. And while it's not much, I can only assume that we'll get to a breaking point—maybe we're already there—when the GOP's continued inaction on guns will have real consequences for their continued viability as a party. Because when you take away women's autonomy and people's health care, and willfully ignore what domestic terrorism really looks like in this country, you shouldn't be worried about losing your guns. You should be worried about losing Congress.
In the meantime, they can go ahead and try to pass every abortion ban they want. But they'll never be pro-life.