The House Judiciary Committee voted 18 to 14 on Wednesday to advance a bill that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks. The ban includes no exception for the health of the woman.
"This bill is deeply troubling and dangerous," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an emailed statement. "Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor and health care provider."
The lack of exception for women's health is one of the reasons that the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), believe the bill has little chance of advancing much further. Not only is it unlikely to pass in the Senate or be signed by pro-choice President Barack Obama, but NWLC believes it is clearly "unconstitutional" and courts would likely overturn it.
Both pro-choice groups and District of Columbia residents, who do not have voting representation in Congress, have criticized Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) over H.R. 3803 (PDF). DC Vote, an organization that lobbies for increased representation in Congress, descended on Franks' office when the bill was first proposed in May, demanding Franks pay attention to other municipal concerns if he was going to meddle with the city's abortion policies.
James Jones of DC Vote told Raw Story earlier this month, "Our issue with Mr. Franks is his desire to impose his personal agenda on the District of Columbia. We think this is a violation of basic democratic principles. It’s not supported by the majority of people in D.C. most likely. He’s imposing it just because he can."
Val Vilott, president of the board of the D.C. Abortion Fund, said bills like this came from "a very loud anti-choice faction that exists in the House of Representatives. They wouldn’t dare do this for any other district in the rest of the country."
Still, states have proposed a record number of anti-abortion bills in the last two legislative sessions. So far in 2012, states have enacted 39 new abortion measures, and states enacted 80 such measures in 2011, according to an analysis by the sexual and reproductive health group the Guttmacher Institute.