MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

House Passes Bill Making Abortion After 20 Weeks a Federal Crime

The Trump administration has signaled support for the ban, which would throw abortion doctors in jail and let women who get abortions sue their doctors.

Howard Jones/ZUMA Press/NewscomHoward Jones/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, the bill passed the House 237 to 189.

Third time's a charm? The U.S. House of Representatives is considering "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, for the third time since 2013. But this time, the White House has signaled full support for the bill.

Under the new legislation (H.R. 36), abortion after 20 weeks pregnancy would be a crime except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or the pregnancy is a product of rape or incest. Pregnant women who find out after the cutoff that they are carrying an nonviable fetus (i.e., one that cannot survive outside the womb) would still be forced to carry the fetus to term.

While women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks would not be criminalized under federal law, anyone who performed or agreed to perform an abortion on someone more than 20 weeks pregnant would face five years in federal prison, a fine, or both. "A woman who undergoes a prohibited abortion may not be prosecuted for violating or conspiring to violate the provisions of this bill," it states.

The failure to directly criminalize women may seem like a bright spot. But in this way the bill not only restricts women's control over their own bodies and reproductive futures but also takes a pass at their agency, declaring us too morally or intellectually inferior to know what we are doing and be held responsible for our decisions. In fact, under Republicans' new proposal, a woman who seeks out an abortion after 20 weeks and finds a doctor to do it may then sue the abortion doctor in civil court.

From a philosophical standpoint, it's bullshit—but from a political point, it makes sense. Republicans know that if they start throwing women in jail for terminating their pregnancies, they would lose a lot of centrist support; not so if they can make this about punishing evil "abortionists" that prey on poor pregnant women.

In a statement Monday, the Trump administration said it "strongly supports H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections."

But while conservative representatives and President Trump may be enthused about the proposed abortion ban, the Senate has indicated that now is not the time. On Monday, Republican Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said taking up the abortion bill was "not a near-term priority."

Photo Credit: Howard Jones/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...abortion after 20 weeks pregnancy would be a crime except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or the pregnancy is a product of rape or incest.

    The latter carve out is especially perplexing to me. If the unborn is a person, then how can you justify ending its existence for the sins of the parent(s)? Either it's a person or it isn't. These people shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways.

  • lap83||

    Yeah, I think it's a muddle headed centrist Republican thing intended to please every voter

  • Libertymike||

    Another manifestation of cucky-sucky.

    And yes, cuck fits the bill.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Another manifestation of cucky-sucky.

    You're an attorney, right?

  • Libertymike||

    Yes, and..?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    I have nothing more to add.

  • Libertymike||

    Good, we can conclude that Crusty concurs: the proposed legislation is cucky-sucky.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Simply rewrite the 14th Amendment to begin thus: "All ova fertilized..." This should be as easy as repealing the Second Amendment, so long as "we" first get rid of the 19th Amendment and nuke Canada into annexation.

  • Lily Bulero||

    "These people shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways."

    Unborn children deserve to die in order to punish the alleged sins of prolifers. /sarc

  • Macy's Window||

    It is pretty simple.

    The carve out for rape/incest is a recognition that restricting abortion in these cases has no political support and would hinder the achievement of more realistic restrictions.

    If you favor abortion, then simply favor it. Don't be disingenuous about the reasons for the carve outs.

  • Arcxjo||

    Intellectual consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

  • knockatize||

    That would make every politician squirm (what fun!) - either they choose to make funding available for no abortions, or make funding available for all of them.

    The larger point is that circumstances of conception do not affect whatever the rights of a fetus may be, and it's those who insist on the sanctity of life who should know that best of all.

    Having said that, self-proclaimed Christians need to support the mothers who are victims of rape, whose right to plan a family has been ripped away through no fault of their own. They're doing the right thing, the least we can do is improve their access to public assistance instead of pretending the Savior's going to come down from on high with a check every month when the rent's due.

  • flyfishnevada||

    Assuming rape and incest are both non-consensual, I guess it makes sense. Do the rights of the unborn trump the rights of a woman to carry it when it was put there against her will?

    And according to the the dirty books I read, incest is often consensual so there's that...

  • lap83||

    the video from the CNN link needs aborting

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    But in this way the bill not only restricts women's control over their own bodies[...]


    I guess that's one way to spin it...
    20 weeks is a long time to finally realize you have control over your own body. What happened before 20 weeks?

    Pregnant women who find out after the cutoff that they are carrying an nonviable fetus (i.e., one that cannot survive outside the womb) would still be forced to carry the fetus to term.


    Yeah, there being so many of those cases...

    I don't agree with government imposing restrictions on acts of aggression arbitrarily but using scary scenarios to defend such acts of naked and barbaric aggression does not differentiate you from Marxians, AntiFa assholes and right-wing Socialists.

  • Libertymike||

    "Marxians, AntiFa assholes and right-wing Socialists." Indeed, what's the difference? Butchers, all of them.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    Indeed, they all commit acts of butchery... Against logic and reason, by lending support to their lousy arguments by bringing up scary scenarios.

    I'm glad you didn't miss the point...

  • Hank Phillips||

    Roe v. Wade copied the Libertarian plank on abortion barely a month after the electoral votes were counted. That 0.01% electoral vote told the Democratic and Republican justices that the trampling of individual rights would have to remain in Europe, the Ottoman Empire and mystical banana republics. Soon after that decision shut down coathanger abortion practices, Canada repealed all laws abridging the individual rights of women and their physicians to control their own reproduction. Special thanks are due Tonie Nathan and John Hospers for this sea change in libertarian jurisprudence.

  • WakaWaka||

    And the US currently has the same abortion laws as such enlightened places as China, North Korea, and Cuba. Abortion is limited to twelve weeks, on average, in all of Europe (the UK has the most permissive at twenty four weeks). So, your argumentation here is nonsensical.

  • ||

    While I oppose this bill on federalism grounds (though an argument could be made that it violates the fetus's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment), the idea is in the right place. Anything to save innocent lives.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Bizarro Patrick Henry might want to take a peek at least 3 words into the 14th Amendment before rewriting US and Canadian jurisprudence. Perhaps the Infallible Holy Father can replace that amendment with another Lateran Treaty, or perhaps restore the Holy Inquisition and put physicians on the rack for impiety?

  • WakaWaka||

    That is another stupid argument that you've made here. You are suggesting that only religious people can have problems with abortions that are done beyond twenty weeks, when well over 80% of the population oppose these abortions. To assume that morality opposing near infanticide (as Senator Moynihan referred to it) can only be informed by religion, is to suggest that anyone who lacks religion cannot develop morality on their own on any topic. Nice, anti-Catholic bit, too, bigot

  • BYODB||

    instead of just making dumb ass arguments, Hank, perhaps you could opine on where you think the line should be drawn past which an abortion is illegal since it is a human with it's own rights.

    Should we draw the line on after a child is naturally delivered, and after that you can't kill it? While I doubt many women would choose to kill a child seconds before being born, is it seriously your contention that up until that point it should be entirely legal to do so?

    If so, I assume you have a problem with the laws that say if you kill a pregnant woman, or take an action that results in a miscarriage, you get tried for two murders right? I mean, you can't murder something without any rights can you?

    *looks at all the laws that dictate that mistreating animals is illegal*

    ...oh.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    "Your uterus looks like pink Slimer."

  • Rhywun||

    I can't think of a better way to start the morning than an abortion thread!

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    On Monday, Republican Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said taking up the abortion bill was "not a near-term priority."

    I assume the pro-lifers are shouting, "So how many more innocent babies will be murdered until it becomes a priority, John?"

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    "Many innocent lives were lost bringing this information. "

  • Hank Phillips||

    Trillions... surely Congress can at least restore the ban on condoms and diaphragms, and restore the 18th Amendment to again ban light beer as a date-rape drug!

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    You sound like my mother when she got angry and threatened us with dying so that we would have to dress ourselves or something...

  • Stormy Dragon||

    How do they even tell the difference between a 19 week, 6 day fetus and a 20 week fetus?

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    That's why no one should be made to pay for someone else's abortions. PERIOD.

  • WakaWaka||

    Might I introduce you to an ultrasound?

  • BYODB||

    While Stormy Dragon is a well known retard, I believe his point is a simple one: a one day difference isn't a significant difference. Thus it's an arbitrary line in the sand, but that's where one ends up when natural rights come into conflict.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    No that's not my point. Even accepting the 20 week line in the sand, you can't tell if a particular fetus is on one side of the line or the other. It's not like you can count the rings to tell exactly what week it is in. Doctors have to guess based on roughly how developed the fetus is, but a particular fetus could be well ahead or well behind the estimated date based on it's particular idiosyncratic development:

    Length of human pregnancies can vary naturally by as much as five weeks

  • BYODB||

    So I'm wrong even though I got your point exactly right. This is what I mean by 'Stormy Dragon is a well known retard'.

    ^_^

  • Stormy Dragon||

    My complaint is not the arbitrariness of a 20 week ban vs a 19 or 21 week ban.

    My complaint is that if this law passes, how will it be possible to try it in court? If a doctor is accused of aborting a 22 week fetus, how will it be possible to prove that it was actually a 22 week fetus and not an overdeveloped 17 week fetus?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Take drivers licenses for example. It's arbitrary to say 17 years olds can drive, but not 16 years olds. But we can at least tell if someone actually is 16 or 17 based on an objective birth record. We don't have to have someone guess whether a particular person looks 17-ish or not.

  • BYODB||


    Take drivers licenses for example. It's arbitrary to say 17 years olds can drive, but not 16 years olds. But we can at least tell if someone actually is 16 or 17 based on an objective birth record.

    You're a retard since you're blatantly ignorant of who would actually bring the complaint in the first place. Keep it up, you're making your own position look dumber by the minute.

  • Longtobefree||

    Perhaps they self identify as 17 years old? What then, pray tell.

  • WakaWaka||

    I don't know. How does the rest of the world do it, since the US, along with Cuba, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Canada are the outliers?

  • BYODB||

    Ask yourself who will bring the complaint, I.E. have standing to complain, in the first place. Idiot.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Ok, I'll bite. Who brings the complaint?

  • BYODB||

    The State or the Individual who was receiving the abortion, and/or the legal guardian of the person who received the abortion.

  • BYODB||

    And, to the point, the individual who received said abortion would have to lie to the provider about the conception date.

    The State would need someone who received an abortion outside the legal guidelines to go after the provider, and in that case that person the State is using would have...needed to lie to the provider about the conception date.

    Oops.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Therein lies the problem. Conception date is imprecise; human memory is not terribly reliable. Maybe Crusty marks the calendar daily for sex but I doubt most people do. What if a couple had sex five consecutive days. How would anyone know which day was the conception day? Ultrasound et al still have margin of error. I do not believe, based in current technology, any law can be written justly, based on the estimated age of the fetus.

  • BYODB||


    I do not believe, based in current technology, any law can be written justly, based on the estimated age of the fetus.

    So, that's one vote in favor of abortion right up until the moment the head clears the vagina. These are the questions we end up with when talking about conflicting natural rights.

    It doesn't matter what the 'actual' conception date is, it matters what the person receiving the abortion puts down on the official documentation -AND- it matters if a professional ultrasound tech signs off on it.

  • BYODB||

    The reason why those two things are the major concerns is because it looks at each individual case and judges those cases on their individual merits. It's actually smarter than most other abortion legislation.

    Of course, it will necessarily raise the cost of an abortion. Of course, it would be far cheaper NOT to end up in a place where you're murdering a potential human all around so I'm not about to weep over poor women's access to an abortion one way or the other. That fetus didn't just materialize inside her. Choices were already made before you start filling out those forms.

    Any which way you cut it, legal murder is going to have some downsides.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    I can promise even the very best US tech in the world will have a margin of error of several days to a week, at best. I've already commented on the reliability of human memory. You could leave it up to a jury to weigh the evidence. Still, relying on an arbitrary definition of fetal age that cannot be measure precisely could easily lead to bad verdicts.

  • BYODB||


    Still, relying on an arbitrary definition of fetal age that cannot be measure precisely could easily lead to bad verdicts.

    I already told you that legal murder is going to have some downsides. There is no way to avoid them, period, once you have accepted that the right to murder a child in the womb is acceptable. I use the word murder for shock value, obviously, but that is more or less what is being discussed. Keep in mind I'm actually for that right, but I don't want to cheapen the act by calling it something it isn't.

    The fact is there needs to be a cutoff point, and it's absolutely unreasonable to make that cutoff point once the child is no longer inside the mother. 20 Weeks is five months, if you haven't decided by then fuck you, you're having a baby or you're 'accidentally' going to fall down some stairs of your own accord.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Ok. The fetus at SIX months is now endangering the mother's life. Which person do you want to legally murder, the mother or the fetus? Please spare me the shock value, I can discuss this as an adult.

  • BYODB||

    The most honest answer I can give you would be let the woman decide, since her life is in danger and she's the only one who can speak. But all of these 'what if' arguments that get bandied about are how you end up with carve outs exactly like the one explicit in this legislation.


    Under the new legislation (H.R. 36), abortion after 20 weeks pregnancy would be a crime except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or the pregnancy is a product of rape or incest.


    Now, the part of this legislation I specifically think is pretty stupid is this bit here, and I think ENB agrees.


    Pregnant women who find out after the cutoff that they are carrying an nonviable fetus (i.e., one that cannot survive outside the womb) would still be forced to carry the fetus to term.

    Zombie Babies! But seriously, that bit of the bill needs disambiguation. I suspect the number of 'non-viable' babies discovered after the five month window are probably few indeed, but regardless that's pretty bizarre to include specifically.

  • Jickerson||

    The fact is there needs to be a cutoff point, and it's absolutely unreasonable to make that cutoff point once the child is no longer inside the mother.

    I don't see why. I think it's far more unreasonable to have government thugs force people to remain pregnant.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Also, I am not advocating a pro-life or pro-choice stance. Merely trying to show how difficult it is to write laws where there is a "fetus is X weeks old" standard.

  • BYODB||


    Also, I am not advocating a pro-life or pro-choice stance.

    Well, not directly anyway you're just saying it's impossible to know with certainty which is something we already know and don't particularly care about. So, ultimately, it's a strawman based upon criteria that no one except you is using.

    Does the law say 20 weeks? It does! What does that mean? It means the fetus better look like it's 20 weeks along to people who are trained to guesstimate that, and if it's on the cusp the incentive is on the provider to side with the only person in the transaction that can't speak for itself.

    Seems fine, to me.

  • BYODB||

    I'll say one other thing, I don't mean to be as combative and irritable about the subject as my posts seem. The subject just makes me angry, because while I really disagree with abortion I do recognize that it will happen anyway and, furthermore, I recognize that conflicting natural rights need to be resolved as best they can for both parties.

    It really makes me mad, especially, because both the hard right and the hard left don't appear to give a single fuck about those things. The hard right don't want any abortion, period, for any reason ever and the far left wants abortion to be like going to your local CVS for a flu shot.

    To me, neither of those are good outcomes. So my anger isn't directed at you, specifically, and I apologize for my tone even while I acknowledge I'm not going to be changing my tone.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    I appreciate the follow up post. I am highly irritated by both extreme sides of this issue as well. I don't want women killing viable fetuses because they want to and I don't want women being forced to carrying the fetus created from rape. The answer is muddled and likely to make neither side happy. What bothers me most is the science behind procreation is poorly understood by both sides, particularly the law makers. My aim is to try and describe how difficult it is to write a law on imprecise measures. Again, thank you for the apology.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Ask any ER doc and they will have a case where a woman (almost always obese) with stomach cramps. 15 mins later she is giving birth. Some women REALLY are that oblivious to being pregnant. It blows my mind, but it does happen.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    BYODB, you were gentlemanly enough to apologize for your tone and should do the same. I started raising the tone of my posts to match yours and I shouldn't. We are both better than the Tonys or AmSocs of the world. Apologies if I came off as snarky or flip.

  • BYODB||

    I worked in the E.R. for two years, even during Hurricane Katrina (finance related, not care related) and I remember exactly zero cases of this, but I will at least concede it probably does happen.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    Its not commonplace but TLC even had a show about it!?!

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/05/.....-symptoms/

  • Libertymike||

    BYODB and Atlas Slugged, brav fucking o!

    You two just made me feel like Josey Wales and Ten Bears.

  • Atlas Slugged||

    now I want to watch Outlaw Josey Wales...

  • Lily Bulero||

    "On Monday, Republican Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said taking up the abortion bill was "not a near-term priority.""

    Which is probably why the House is taking it up now.

    Republicans really have contempt for the prolifers who put them in office.

    They think that holding a few meaningless symbolic votes will cut it with the prolifers. Nope.

    Meanwhile, some Republicans on the state level get it and are actually passing prolife laws.

    And the otherwise-useless Congressional Republicans can at least be helpful by confirming constitutionalist nominees for the federal courts.

  • lap83||

    Their priority was kicking the Obamacare can down the road...and now that is done, so..time for some empty gesture for those annoying pro-life voters

  • Lily Bulero||

    CONGRESSMAN: I voted against Obamacare and against abortion!

    VOTER: But these things you vote for never become laws, why is that?

    CONGRESSMAN: Kulaks, wreckers, obstructionists. Increase our majority and we'll be able to do better!

  • Brandybuck||

    Libertarianism: The right to kill your own progeny when it's inconvenient.

    There, that should generate a few hundred angry posts...

  • SQRLSY One||

    Conservatism: The right to use your vote, compounded by Government Almighty, to micro-manage everyone else's bodies, to include women who have been raped, or lied to by men. "Love ya babe, love ya love ya love ya. NOW can I get into yer pants?" ... "Loved" babe gets pregnant, and then the abuse begins! Abortion is simply veto power for lied-to women... "Pro-life" means "We side with the abusive men, who lie to women, and then turn on them, as soon as they get pregnant".

  • flyfishnevada||

    Honestly, if you call yourself a libertarian this issue ought to confound the bejesus out of you. Both parties, the woman and the fetus, have rights (unless you subscribe to Hillary Clinton's world view). We can pick arbitrary points in a woman's pregnancy where one party's rights take precedence over the other's but it's all guess work.

  • Fuzzyedia||

    "Republicans know that if they start throwing women in jail for terminating their pregnancies, they would lose a lot of centrist support; not so if they can make this about punishing evil "abortionists" that prey on poor pregnant women."

    Hm, sounds familiar....

    Republicans know that if they start throwing SEX-WORKERS in jail for ADULT CONSENSUAL PAID SEX, they would lose a lot of centrist support; not so if they can make this about punishing evil "JOHNS" that prey on poor SEX WORKERS.

    Yep, looks like they took a page from world renowned nut job Swanee Hunt in her war on sex workers via men.

    I recall listening to a State Senator in 1975 state that we are quickly heading towards a system where white women go free and black men go to jail for committing the same crime.

    I guess they've decided to simplify the system by making women incapable of committing a crimes in the first place. You know, because their basically children who are not responsible for their actions. Of course, in both cases the welfare of the women is placed at risk by punishing that man, but no one bothers to think that far ahead.

    And to think they call this "feminism."

  • BYODB||


    I guess they've decided to simplify the system by making women incapable of committing a crimes in the first place.

    Modern feminism does strongly imply that only men are capable of making choices, which is about the same thing that movement believed 100 years ago.


    I recall listening to a State Senator in 1975 state that we are quickly heading towards a system where white women go free and black men go to jail for committing the same crime.

    Huh...well if you look at the abortion statistics for African American's it would appear that Margaret Sanger is laughing from the grave. I will say that much, for sure.

  • Darth Faja||

    I saw a woman do a backflip. She killed a bird and chugged some mustard. I was so scared I called myself. I told myself that mustard drinkers are innocent. Then I stole a dill pickle.

  • Arcxjo||

    So if I only pay someone else to kill my wife, I'm not a bad person.

  • ||

    What is the libertarian perspective? I mean, you aren´t forcing the hitman to do it. Now of course, murder is a crime one should have an obligation to report if they happen to know about it, even in a libertarian society, but what if you pay someone to kill someone else, then report the killer to the authorities immediately, but the killer manages to finish their job just in time to get caught? You have paid them in advance, so there is no breach of contract, you have reported it immediately, and if someone is dumb enough to risk going to jail for some money, it is their problem, isn´t it? I believe with this approach, soon there would be no people left willing to do the hit job. As for the cases when someone just convinces anoher person to kill someone without offering any monetary incentive, if someone is so unbelievably stupid that they are willing to do it, why should anyone else other than the dumbass be held responsible, after all?

  • Lester224||

    Another proof of burgeoning theocracy in the Repub party. Mike Pence says: "I am a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican in that order." No mention of being an American.

  • Longtobefree||

    To the (probably) woman in the picture (if that person has a uterus); "you didn't build that".

    (and you are a lousy artist)

    Of course, if the fascists had not nationalized medicine, this bickering would be pointless.

  • flyfishnevada||

    Any arguments against this law, or any other that is more or less strict, kind of assume anyone actually understands when life begins. 20 weeks is as good as any other arbitrary point in a pregnancy to end the life of a fetus. Its a barbaric practice no matter what side of the issue you fall on. Personally, I'd err on the side of not killing fetuses but that's just me.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Perhaps they should start with not paying PP for abortions in that time frame?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online