The Congress Abortion Story Everyone’s Missing

Paul Ryan’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood should frighten you. But the Panel’s recommendations should terrify you.

Last Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced attempts to defund Planned Parenthood during the Republican’s push to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. Immediately, and rightfully, outrage followed with an explosion of tweets, columns, and rallies in support of Planned Parenthood and the services they provide.

But what happened more quietly than Ryan’s announcement was the over 400-page Final Report from the House Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood, established in October 2015, after false claims that undercover videos showed abortion clinics profiting from the “sale” of fetal tissue. Despite finding no wrongdoing, it did not stop the Panel from issuing a series of unnecessary and, if taken up, dangerous recommendations.

The first, and probably most damaging, is the proposal that Congress pass a law banning abortion after 20-weeks:


This recommendation is particularly unnerving in the wake of several 20-week bans proposed or passed in a variety of states. Just last month, John Kasich vetoed the controversial “heartbeat bill” (which would effectively ban abortion after just six-weeks, a period of time when many women don’t even know they are pregnant yet) but signed the 20-week ban. Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas have all introduced similar bans for 2017.

Kasich’s ban is the result of a common strategy in politics: Float an extreme idea, so that another, not quite as extreme one can be passed, appearing to be a reasonable compromise. That’s happening now on a grand scale: Float defunding Planned Parenthood, compromise on a national 20-week abortion ban.

Despite the fact that nearly all abortions are performed before 21 weeks, the exception usually involving rare, severe fetal anomalies, and serious risk to the woman’s health, it has not stopped these unconstitutional bans from being proposed (and passing) on the state level, a scary precedent that can only gather more steam and power with the Panel’s recommendation.

The second, and most frightening recommendation, hinges on anti-choicers bogus “live birth” straw-man argument, which has been debunked multiple times.

The recommendation is phrased in such a way as to make it seem as if infants being “born alive” at abortion providers is a common occurrence (it’s not), enough to necessitate not only training but also equipment to keep preterm infants alive. Not only is the resurrection of this previously dead myth frightening, but also the fact that the recommendation so closely resembles TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) Laws like HB2, which would have required all doctors performing abortion in Texas have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that all clinics meet the same requirements as stand-alone surgical centers.

Though the Supreme Court ultimately decided that HB2 was unconstitutional by placing “undue burden” on the abortion procedure, thousands of women were denied their method of chosen care (i.e. a medical abortion over a surgical one and unnecessary and expensive wait-periods and multiple clinic visits) and more than half of the abortion providers in the state were forced to close before the decision. A law proposed by Congress necessitating expensive and unnecessary changes to abortion providers would leave thousands of women in limbo with regards to their reproductive rights and clinics forced to make costly modifications or close.

The support for Planned Parenthood during these misguided and ill-conceived attacks is beyond necessary. But the fear is that we are not seeing the forest for the trees. Anti-choice politicians have already proven this red-herring strategy, proposing an erroneous attack on abortion rights only to quietly pass another, slightly less egregious, but still unconstitutional rule in its wake.

Don’t take the bait. Keep abreast of all possible restrictions, particularly on your state level. Rewire News, Guttmacher Institute, and NARAL Pro-Choice America all have easy searchable databases. In this day in age we cannot be passive news consumers and must remain vigilant to the man-behind-the-curtain.

Elizabeth Skoski lives in New York City. She is the author of the novel, For Girls Who Find Themselves With Child, the proceeds of which are donated to The National Network of Abortion Funds. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Bustle, and The Frisky, among others.

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