House to vote on bill that would criminalize some abortions in DC

The House will vote Tuesday on a bill to limit abortion rights in the District of Columbia, according to a group that backs the measure. 

H.R. 3803 would criminalize abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Republicans say some research suggests fetuses feel pain at that point, though the science is inconclusive.

D.C. physicians who disobey the law would be fined or imprisoned for up to two years.

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill also contains new reporting requirements and, under certain circumstances, civil remedies for partners and parents of women who have abortions. It would not provide an exemption for victims of rape or incest or women whose pregnancies threaten their health.

Sponsoring Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the new bill means to "protect children from being torturously dismembered while they are fully capable of feeling pain."

A staunch opponent of abortion rights, Franks was also behind a recent measure to ban abortions motivated by the sex of the fetus. The House rejected that bill on May 31.

The National Right to Life Committee called Tuesday's scheduled vote "a landmark" and said it would "lay the foundation to achieve legal protection for pain-capable unborn babies."

Supporters of abortion rights have denounced the measure.

"When will the radical right-wing men in Congress let up?" said National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill in a recent statement.
 
The bill "is a clear strike in the ongoing War on Women, and one that places women's lives in danger," O'Neill stated.

Proponents of D.C. home rule have also condemned the bill for "discarding local democratic control," in the words of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D).

H.R. 3803 currently has 222 co-sponsors — more than a House majority. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a companion bill in the upper chamber in February that has 29 cosponsors. 

The abortion issue has received considerable attention from the current GOP-led House. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, the lower chamber voted eight times in 2011 on measures related to abortion and birth control. The group called this figure the "highest" for the House since 2000.

More in Healthcare

GOP lawmaker pledges 'no' vote on spending bill without boost in mental health

Read more »