Why are we even thinking about new federal restrictions on abortion when we have so many broader and more urgent issues to deal with? You don’t need an explanation beyond “It was an Arizona House Republican’s idea.” It’s as obvious an occurrence as legislation from a California Senate Democrat that would pour more subsidies into electric cars. I guess Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is not one to be original, because not only has he written this bill, he defended its original version this way, before the House Rules Committee changed it:
. . . my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.
“. . . the incidence of rape . . . are very low?” Subject-verb agreement. Learn it, live it. (In fairness, I can’t tell if this is Franks’s mistake or that of the Washington Post copy desk.)
Anyway, the purpose of the bill is, essentially, to outlaw abortion after the point at which the fetus can feel pain. That apparently is after 22 weeks of pregnancy, although based on my cursory research, actual medical professionals have varied opinions on that and might even tell you that the point of pain differs for every fetus. The original bill would only have made an exception for saving the mother’s life; the House Rules changes add exceptions for rape and incest of a minor, if those crimes have been reported expediently.
I do want to emphasize that the woman seeking the abortion would not be subject to prosecution if the law were violated, just the doctor who performed it. Also, the removal of a stillborn fetus would not count as an abortion. So this legislation isn’t nearly as dumb as it could be, when you think about the history of abortion legislation in America and abroad. What is as dumb as it could be is the fact that Franks is bothering with abortion legislation at all, when he should be well aware that the overall optics are, in every sense, terrible.
This is my ideal alternative to abortion, which nobody who isn’t professionally researching the idea seems to care about. (To shorten the bioethics debate, I would say that I’d only want it used for women who would otherwise have sought an abortion.) And since nobody in Congress cares about it, let’s stick to things they’ll understand: This bill isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t just mean the Senate. This bill is a good way to get some money flowing from pro-life and pro-choice groups, but it won’t accomplish much else. Nobody else wants to think about it, because the topic is exhausting.
Unfortunately, news watchers have been put into a position where they have to think about it, just because it’s made headlines. You’ll find that most of them consider rape and incest equally acceptable exceptions, and would likely have expected those in the bill in all of its versions. That they weren’t reflects poorly on Franks and his party, and I don’t care if he’s unconcerned with that matter.