The House voted Tuesday, 228-196, to pass a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy—a bill that the White House has already promised to veto.
The bill, which Republican leaders have acknowledged stands no chance at becoming law, was proposed last week by Arizona Congressman Trent Franks under the title “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The measure argues that, by eight weeks after fertilization, a fetus can react to touch; after 20 weeks, the bill says, a fetus can feel and react to pain. ”It is the purpose of the Congress to assert a compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the state at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.”
However, studies have repeatedly stated that the science behind the GOP’s bill is false, and fetuses cannot feel pain until the third trimester.
Rep. Franks incited outrage last week when he said that a “very low” number of rapes result in pregnancies. His comments drew comparisons to former congressman Todd Akin, who argued last year that women’s bodies have the capability of avoiding pregnancy if the rape is “legitimate.”
Republicans then modified the bill to include exceptions for cases of rape and incest—an exception that betrays the official Republican Party’s stance on abortion as defined by the GOP’s 2012 platform, which called for a Constitutional ban on abortion without exception for rape or incest.
Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, one of the leading voices in support of the bill, told msnbc Tuesday that the purpose of the legislation was to criminalize abortion providers. Blackburn has been at the front of the GOP’s effort to end accusations of the party’s “war on women.”
“We have a very narrowly drafted bill that deals specifically with late-term abortions,” Blackburn told msnbc. “My hope is that we can show tremendous compassion to anyone who has been a victim of rape, a victim of incest, and that we can rid our society of the perpetrators who carry out [abortions].” Blackburn cited the case of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted last month for the murder of three born-alive infants—which is already illegal, as a primary motivator behind Franks’ bill.
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters last Thursday that, while jobs continue to be Republicans’ top priority, “there are other important issues that we have to deal with. And after the Kermit Gosnell case and the publicity that it received, I think the legislation is appropriate.”
The bill now makes its way to the Democratic-led Senate where it is expected to fail.