A bill that would ban late-term abortions (past 20 weeks of pregnancy) was pulled before a vote in the U.S. House in January, ostensibly over concern about a rape reporting requirement and concern about lack of compassion for women who had been raped and became pregnant as a result. Among participants of a 2013 study by the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute, however, rape was not listed at all among the reasons why women seek late-term abortions.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act had been passed by the House in 2013, with Democratic support, and included the language that abortions are prohibited after 20 weeks, except to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest that are reported to authorities.
Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) re-introduced the bill as the new Congress began earlier this year, and it was set to be passed on the eve of the March for Life, held on the national mall on January 22.
A group of Republican women, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), however, announced objection to the reporting requirement. Additionally Ellmers — who voted for the same bill in 2013 — expressed concern that including the requirement would hurt the party’s chances with women and millennials, despite polls showing the contrary. Her comments caused an uproar in the conservative base of the GOP, and her subsequent remarks in a blog post that members of the pro-life community were “abhorrent” and “childish” exacerbated the situation.
As J.C. Derrick at World chronicled, Blackburn subsequently “issued a plea to pull the bill,” and GOP leadership acquiesced.
Derrick continued that some House members were frustrated that the reporting requirement had created the problem, “since it was Blackburn who led the effort to include the language in the 2013 bill.”
“When she backpedaled, the National Right to Life committee released a 2014 questionnaire from Blackburn stating her support for a reporting requirement,” he wrote. “I asked Blackburn when her personal concerns arose, and she declined to answer.”
However, Derrick noted that Blackburn would not deny that she led the effort to pull the bill, saying, “I think it’s appropriate that we continue to have a family discussion about how we get this bill right.”
With so much focus on the rape reporting language of the bill, however, more attention has been drawn to a study, conducted by Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport, published at the Guttmacher Institute’s Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, which compares reasons women give for delaying abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy versus late-term. The researchers concluded that both groups of women have similar characteristics.
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, writing at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), observed that the authors found women seeking both first-trimester and late-term abortions provided the same reasons for delaying their abortions.
“Women in both groups reported ‘not knowing about the pregnancy,’ ‘trouble deciding about the abortion,’ and ‘disagreeing about the abortion with the man involved’ with similar frequency,” Johnson noted. “Among women in the late-term abortion group, the most commonly cited reason for delaying the procedure was ‘raising money for the procedure and related costs.’”
Those women in the late-term abortion group also gave reasons for delaying the procedure of “difficulty securing insurance coverage,” “difficulty getting to the abortion facility,” and “not knowing where to go for an abortion” more often compared to women in the first-trimester group.
For many years, abortion-rights advocates have asserted that abortions after 20 weeks are performed because of maternal health complications or lethal fetal anomalies discovered late in pregnancy.
However, wider data from both the medical literature and late-term abortion providers indicates that most late-term procedures are not performed for these reasons.
Previous survey studies of late-term abortion patients have confirmed that most late-term abortions are performed because of a delay in pregnancy diagnosis and for reasons similar to those given by first-trimester abortion patients: financial stressors, relationship problems, education concerns or parenting challenges.
Consequently, not only were threats to the life of the mother or serious fetal anomaly not given as reasons — issues abortion rights activists have long claimed are the main reasons why late-term abortions are performed — but neither was rape.
“The recent failure of the House of Representatives to act on the Pain-Capable legislation is doubly tragic because the law is hung up over an issue that is a) unjust and b) likely a null set,” Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told Breitbart News.
“Neither of the two most comprehensive studies of the reasons women seek late-term abortions includes an act of rape as a rationale,” he continued. “In fact, the reasons women typically cite are similar in nature to the reasons women have abortions generally – economic circumstances, lack of support from the father, or future education concerns.”
“None of these is trivial, but none is worth the taking of a human life either,” Donovan added. “If an unborn child conceived in rape happens to make it to the sixth month, being killed in an abortion will be as painful for him or her as for any other baby. And the risk to the mother’s health from the abortion will be greater than carrying the baby to term.
“There just is no public policy interest served by excluding these babies from the law’s protection,” he asserted.
“The Guttmacher statistics — revealing no listing of rape as a reason for late term abortion — corresponds with what I see in my own role as pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More – which together comprise the largest ministry in the world for healing after abortion,” Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also told Breitbart News. “We know from daily experience the compassionate care such women deserve.”
But the political dynamic here to let rape concerns delay what many of us believe is the most important pro-life bill of this decade is a mistake. Some politicians are trying to do damage control over misstatements about rape in the past by pro-life lawmakers. But it’s time we do some damage control over the painful dismemberment of children. Yes, we need to speak and act sensitively and compassionately regarding rape. But children in the womb have no less of a claim on that sensitive compassion – and therein lies the problem.
Pavone called for a stop to the continued use of unborn children serving as “the scapegoats for the unresolved problems of the born.”
“The unborn are always the ones whose well-being is put last on the list. It’s time to raise that concern to the top of the list,” he continued. “The unborn are the forgotten ones, and a public policy that allows them to be killed is the most destructive form of legal prejudice in our nation today. It’s time to apologize to them, and unapologetically defend them.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life observed to Breitbart News that the issue concerning why women seek abortions is further complicated by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not formally track abortion.
“This is a disservice to women and public health,” she said. “We need this tracking in order to hold the abortion industry accountable. This is the reason why Kermit Gosnell was able to operate his clinic for as long as he did.”
Yoest said her concern about the lack of a reporting requirement for rape is that abortion can then be used to cover up a crime.
Additionally, she emphasized the health concerns for mothers who have late-term abortions.
“At the 20-week mark, abortion becomes dramatically riskier for women,” Yoest explained. “We want to strengthen the Pain-Capable bill to underscore that both the mother and her unborn child are at risk with late-term abortion.”
“The United States is in the company of China, North Korea, and Canada, as the only countries in the world that permit abortion for any reason after viability,” she added. “Because the abortion lobby is so extreme and abortion is a multi-million-dollar business, we are sacrificing not only unborn children, but women’s health as well for profits.”
Blackburn’s office did not return Breitbart News’ calls for an interview date to discuss the future of the Pain Capable bill.