Abortion measure misguided
March 15, 2012
Today, my op-ed on Georgia’s 20 week abortion ban bill was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
A bill banning abortion care after 20 weeks was fast-tracked through the state House last month. This bill substitutes personal ideologies for scientific evidence and could have devastating effects on the health of women in Georgia.
The very premise of this bill — that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks — is contrary to credible scientific evidence and without support from leading international experts.
Although abortion opponents often use arguments about supposed fetal pain to advance an anti-choice political agenda, the body of scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that a fetus is incapable of feeling pain prior to the 24th week of gestation, and possibly throughout pregnancy.
In 2010, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a report commissioned by the British government, which found that “the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense” prior to 24 weeks gestation. … In addition, increasing evidence suggests that the fetus never enters a state of wakefulness inside the womb.”
Responsible medicine requires that patients and health care providers make treatment decisions together, based on medically accurate, unbiased information. The state Senate should not allow the personal ideologies of some abortion opponents to trump credible scientific evidence.
This bill is also unconstitutional as it does not contain an adequate exception to protect women’s health and it bans legal abortion procedures protected under the Roe v. Wade decision. Arkansas Deputy Attorney General Elisabeth Walker testified against a similar bill in her state last year because she said it contradicted years of U.S. Supreme Court rulings finding that states cannot ban abortion care before viability. For this reason, the Arkansas bill was stopped in committee.
Women need access to abortion care later in pregnancy for a variety of reasons. The National Abortion Federation hears from thousands of women every month who have a medical complication or condition that could worsen if they continue the pregnancy; others find out in a very wanted pregnancy that their fetus has an anomaly that is incompatible with life.
Some medical issues are not detectable prior to 20 weeks, and this bill contains no exceptions for these heartbreaking cases.
Nor does it contain an exception for cases of rape, incest or when an abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s health.
But even if it had those narrow exceptions, this bill would still have a devastating impact on women in Georgia. Some women do not recognize that they are pregnant until the pregnancy is well-advanced — sometimes due to irregular periods, health conditions or misdiagnosed pregnancies — and others may have to delay care while they raise necessary funds or travel great distances to obtain the abortion care they need.
For a woman with limited financial resources, gathering enough money can take time and delay her abortion care by weeks, and the price of abortion care can increase each week of the pregnancy.
We recently heard from a woman who obtained abortion care in Atlanta after she learned during a very wanted pregnancy that her fetus had a severe medical condition and brain deformity. As medical professionals, she and her husband knew first-hand the severity of the diagnosis, which could not have been detected earlier in her pregnancy.
The state should not pass laws that disregard the importance of scientific evidence or the real circumstances and complications women can face during pregnancy. The Senate should reject this harmful and misguided legislation.