Women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) just introduced an extreme bill that would ban all abortion after 20 weeks in every state – and criminalize doctors who perform the procedure with penalties of up to five years in jail.

We’re grateful that champions of women’s health like Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have already stood up to make it clear that this bill is a non-starter in the Senate.  It is important for people to understand this ban is dangerous, unconstitutional, and would turn back the clock on women’s health – and legal rights – more than 40 years. 

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Women shouldn’t have to justify their personal medical decisions – but the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. Nearly 99 percent of all abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks. When they do, they often involve severe, fetal abnormalities and serious risks to women’s health – these are often very wanted pregnancies that have gone tragically wrong, as in the cases of Christie, Evelyn, and Julie.

We’ve already seen the impact of these restrictions on women across the country. Nine states have enacted similar bans on abortion – and where they’ve been allowed to take effect, women have been put into unimaginably difficult situations – like Danielle Deaver in Nebraska, who was forced to continue her pregnancy even after her doctor told her the fetus had no chance of survival. Thanks to courageous women like Danielle who have come forward to share their stories, we’re seeing the truth: When Americans understand the real-world impact of a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, 60 percent of voters oppose restrictions – and so do their doctors.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and doctors across the country have spoken out against similar restrictions, which prevent them from giving their patients the best care possible. Sen. Graham is pushing an extreme agenda with no basis in medicine – and using junk science to score political points.

Graham has claimed, “This is a debate worthy of a great democracy.”

In fact, the vast majority of Americans want their elected officials to focus on creating jobs and moving our economy forward – not on rolling back women’s access to health care or interfering in private medical matters. Abortion is a deeply personal, complex decision. We’re all better off when women and their doctors – not politicians – are the ones determining their own health care. 

Singiser is vice president for Public Policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.