Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
The anti-abortion activists and politicians in the states have made passing 20-week abortion bans based on the idea of “fetal pain” a cause-du-jour for this year’s legislative sessions. It’s become obvious, as Kate Sheppard reported in Mother Jones, that “fetal pain” is their number one priority this year, with four new states enacting bans and a dozen others at least proposing the legislation.
Emily Bazelon writes in the New York Times that the Center for Reproductive Rights is considering their own eventual lawsuit over the bans, which are unconstitutional due to the Roe V. Wade ruling stating that abortion cannot be banned before a fetus is viable, usually at around 23 weeks. These state-based bans are only carving off a small section of new abortions, and as Bazelon notes these bans are in many cases “symbolic.” Some of the states involved don’t even have providers that perform second trimester abortions, and the number of women seeking them out are only a tiny percentage of the overall number of women wanting the procedure.
It’s that statistic that is so dangerous, and why the push for legal action over the ban is exactly what anti-choice activists are both hoping for and counting on.
Just as anti-abortion activists won a victory in ending “partial-birth abortion,” a made-up term that helped change the face of abortion challenges by placing a government duty to “protect” a fetus over the needs of a mother, even though very few abortions would ever be affected by the ban, “fetal pain” bans seek to do the same: allow the Supreme Court to place a new standard for which the rights of a fetus outweigh the rights of the woman carrying it.