The U.S. House of Representatives voted 240-186 Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. With the measure unlikely to pass the Senate, the ultimate goal of those who support the proposed legislation is to push the Supreme Court to take up the issue, the Hill reported.
"I think this is likely to get a challenge in the court and I think it's likely to prevail," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., told the Hill. In its landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right to have an abortion until a fetus is viable, a time period that usually ranges from 24 weeks to 28 weeks of pregnancy. The proposed legislation, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would create a 20-week cutoff point based on the questionable claim that fetuses can feel pain after that length of time.
Others called the bill a waste of time because its chances of passing the Senate, much less being signed by the president, were so slim. “This is a lot of time and energy spent on a bill that really has no chance of becoming law,” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said, the Wall Street Journal reported. Still, Republicans have put considerable effort into molding the bill into a version that would be palatable to a sufficient number of House Republicans.
In January, House Republicans had to withdraw the same bill at the last minute because they couldn’t garner enough votes from female as well as moderate Republicans to pass it. The primary reason for the lack of support was a controversial provision contained in the bill that required women to report rape to authorities if they wanted to be exempted from the 20-week ban. At the time, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Smith, said, “That bill, I promise you, will be back on the floor very, very shortly.”
In its revised form, the bill no longer requires victims to report rape to authorities if they are seeking an exception to the ban. Instead, they have to receive counseling or medical treatment at least 48 hours prior to an abortion, which critics of the bill say will still present obstacles to women seeking an abortion.
The White House, meanwhile, called the bill “disgraceful,” with Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying, “The bill continues to add harsh burdens to the survivors of sexual assault, rape and incest, who are already enduring unimaginable hardship.”