Colorado’s four Republican Congressmen, U.S. Representatives Ken Buck, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn, voted Tuesday to ban abortion after 20 weeks.
In response, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Director Karen Middleton issued a statement saying the Colorado politicians “will be held accountable for this vote”:
“Colorado voters have said over and over they do not support abortion bans. And this bill is especially offensive because it could impose five years in prison for a doctor who performs an abortion after 20 weeks.
Coloradans strongly believe personal, private medical decisions belong between a woman and her physician. This bill is a offense to Colorado women, Colorado physicians, and Colorado values.
Dr. Rebecca Cohen, an Aurora Ob-Gyn in Rep. Coffman’s district, put it this way, ‘As a physician who provides abortion, I have the obligation to speak – for science, for women, and for the sacred relationship between patient and physician. The 20-week abortion ban is intrusive, based on lies, and serves only to further stigmatize reproductive choice, not to protect women or children. This ban would intrude on the patient-physician relationship and the right of a woman to make her own medical decisions.’
Backers of the bill, which was last passed in 2015, say a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks of development, but abortion advocates point out that this view on fetal pain is outside of the scientific mainstream.
Pro-abortion advocates also say it doesn’t matter because abortion is a woman’s choice, and they argue that a 20-week ban is one of many strategies to limit access to abortions. Other restrictions, which aim to stop abortions, require waiting periods before an abortion, an ultrasound image test, and counseling. Vox reported on the 20-week ban Oct. 3:
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide, except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother. A doctor who performed an abortion after 20 weeks, except in those cases, could face up to five years in prison. Women seeking abortions would not be penalized under the bill.
The text of the bill includes a section on the science of fetal pain, which states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”
However, the general scientific consensus is that no such evidence exists. “There’s actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren’t completely laid down and working yet until much further along in pregnancy, we think even the third trimester,” said Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. Twenty weeks, she said, “is just an arbitrary limit set in place by politicians that has no medical or scientific backing.”
Anti-choice advocates stand behind the bill, as CNN reports today:
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced last week that the House would vote on H.R. 36, calling it legislation that “will respect the sanctity of life and stop needless suffering.”
“It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain, and give them a chance to grow and live full and happy lives,” McCarthy’s statement said. “We have an obligation to speak and defend for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
As for the narrowly divided Senate, where passing abortion-related bills can be harder than in the House, the legislation may not get floor time anytime soon.