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05.23.13 - (PRESS RELEASE) Just two days after a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled a similar law in Arizona was clearly unconstitutional under 40 years of Supreme Court precedent, today the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee will consider a bill banning all abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with only a narrow exception to save a pregnant woman’s life.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) introduced HR 1797 last month in an attempt to restrict legal reproductive health care services for women living in the District of Columbia—but Franks recently announced he plans to amend the bill to apply its restrictions nationwide.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on members of the Judiciary Committee to reject the unconstitutional bill:
“It is no small irony that Rep. Franks is using the Subcommittee on the Constitution to advance legislation attacking the firmly established constitutional rights of women.
“Everywhere that similarly unconstitutional laws have been challenged in the courts—including Rep. Franks’ home state of Arizona just this week—they have been blocked before they could jeopardize women’s health and lives.
“Congress should be in the business of protecting the rights of Americans, not seeking to intrude upon their personal, private decisions about their health, families, and future in ways that would damage all three. We urge members of Congress to reject this attempt to legislate away women’s autonomy, dignity, and fundamental human rights.”
Today’s hearing will include testimony from George Washington University professor Christy Zink, who will once again relay her experience of needing an abortion at 21 weeks of pregnancy after discovering severe fetal anomalies. HR 1797, which establishes criminal penalties for providers who perform abortions beyond 20 weeks, would imperil the life, health, and decision-making ability of women like Zink if enacted into law.
Following a lawsuit filed by the Center and the ACLU, a similar ban enacted in Franks’ home state of Arizona was permanently struck down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 21. A similar law in Idaho was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge earlier this year and a state court temporarily blocked a 20-week ban in Georgia in December 2012.
Further exposing Franks’ hostility toward women’s reproductive health care and their doctors, in support of the bill he has invoked the horrific crimes of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia.
“Rep. Franks is cynically capitalizing on a horrific crime to further his harmful agenda to restrict women’s reproductive rights,” added Northup. “Onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion only drive good reproductive health care providers out of practice and make safe and legal abortion that much more difficult to obtain, especially for poor and marginalized communities.”