Despite earlier judicial arguments by Republicans that abortion is a “state’s rights” issue, Senate Republican Lindsey Graham just introduced a national abortion ban at fifteen weeks The bill includes procedures that are medication only abortions. Moreover, the national abortion ban does not prevent states from enacting more restrictive abortion legislation.
Conservatives and libertarians traditionally reject federal over-reach. However, some make exceptions for heavy-handed federal legislation when it involves controlling women’s bodies. The concept that men, and some women entrenched in the patriarchal traditions, have the right to control a woman’s body over her own consent is, in essence, rape culture. Allowing that a pregnant woman does not have autonomy over her reproductive choices is analogous to a culture that violates, intimidates and fails to respect her right to consensual sex. Thus, abortion bans are just codified American rape culture.
This bill, coming just months after the Supreme Court removed a fifty year precedent of a right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson, proves that far right activists never intended to stop at state autonomy. Moreover, we should not expect that this bill will be the limit of further national restrictions on gestational time periods for abortions, consensual sexuality between adults, same sex marriage or right to use contraception by women.
Here is my breakdown of the text of the bill titled: Protecting Pain-Capable Children from Late-Term Abortions Act”
The bill will codify into law that a fetus is formed into an “unborn child” between 5 and 10 weeks. A full term pregnancy last approximately 40 weeks. The bill bans abortions at 15 weeks. Any time period after fifteen weeks is termed a “late term abortion” although that is not a correct use of the term “late term abortion”. Also, we should be wary of language in the bill that identifies human charteristics of the embryo at five weeks as that will be a jumping point from which an amendment would allow for shortening gestational time periods, codifying that life begins at conception, and granting five week embryos personhood status.
The bill determines that Congress has the authority to extend the protections of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to “pain-capable unborn children”
In Dobbs v. Jackson, the US Supreme Court said women would not be extended the protection of the 14th Amendment in order to have autonomy over their own bodies. Justice Clarence Thomas questioned whether the 14th Amendment should grant protections for all marriage, all sexual actions between consenting adults, and birth control (for women). But here Congress extends substantive due process to a 15 week fetus.
Abortions performed at or after 15 gestational weeks will be a crime. This includes “any abortion performed through medical or chemical intervention, including writing a prescription for a drug or device intended to result in an abortion.”
The exceptions to this rule will be if “in the reasonable medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman” provided her life is endangered by physical impairments and not psychological or emotional ones. The mental health of the mother, her underlying mental capacity, cognitive impairment, or emotional state is not to be considered.
The bill provides an exception where the pregnancy arises from the rape of an adult woman provided that she has undergone counseling and medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours prior to the abortion. In rape culture, women are not allowed the right to refuse invasions of their body. In this statute, a rape victim must consent to both a medical procedure and mental health counseling whether she likes it or not. Or she can bear the rapist’s baby. Those are her choices.
For the rape or incest of a minor, the rape or incest must be reported to a law enforcement agency. The bill does not seem to consider how the minor, who might be reliant on her family member assailant, will file a police report, or even know to do so. And while reporting rape and incest of a child to a law enforcement agency is appropriate in every circumstance, the burden of report falls (according to the proposed bill) upon the minor. Little thought is given to the emotional and physical well-being of minor women, minor girls and children who are raped. The child bears not only the pregnancy, but also the burden of reporting the rape/incest.
The bill does not include exceptions for fetal abnormalities or a fetus who will not survive outside the womb. Again, a fetal abnormality or impairment that will not result in a live birth must be carried to term if it occurs or is evidenced outside of fifteen weeks. Forcing a mother to carry a failed pregnancy to term in order to justify political/religious values ignores the mother’s right to consent over her own reproductive health. Removing a women’s consent to her own bodily reproductive healthcare is rape culture.
The bill provides that any employee of a hospital, physician’s office or abortion clinic must report failures to comply with the law. The bill codifies the Texas abortion bill concept of vigilante justice. Everyone must spy on the facility for compliance of the law. Physicans who violate the law are subject to fines and up to five years in prison. Physicians must place in a woman’s medical file documentation certifying that the adult woman obtained medical treatment and counseling for the rape necessitating the abortion. Physicians must place in the medical folder of the minor patient that reports of child abuse, rape or incest were reported to law enforcement agencies. Physicians who perform abortions must annually submit a summary of all such abortions to the National Center of Health Statistics at the end of each calendar year. While the report should not identify the woman, the report must be public. We are all vigilantes in public rape culture where women are the common enemy. The bill purports to protect the reproductive healthcare information of women. However, in rape culture, women must provide (and are often then ridiculed with) information about the rape. The public cross-examination of rape victims for choices in dress, actions, and any other poor choice serves to normalize rape culture. Data collection about women’s reproductive choices could also serve as a spring-board to further restrict women’s contraception availability and other healthcare options as sexuality law enforcement continues.
The bill will require 60 Senate votes to pass. Currently, the Democrats control the equally divided Senate since the Democrats control the tie-breaking vote. The bottom line is that Republicans are coming after women in this election. They will pass extreme bans on contraception, abortion, and body autonomy. Women, even women who seek to carry a pregnancy to term, are endangered should a pregnancy result in a miscarriage. Women’s right to reproductive healthcare is under a national attack.
And a party that does not believe women have consenual rights over their own bodies is a Rape Culture Party.