WASHINGTON, DC (October 2, 2017) This week, the House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill that would prevent women from obtaining an abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Under the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” medical providers who perform an abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy could face a fine, up to five years in prison, or both. The bill does provide exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or the health of the mother. Currently, there are 17 states that ban abortions at or after 20 weeks on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain.
This bill could result in Black women losing access to abortion services during the most desperate of circumstances. There are multiple reasons why a woman may decide to have an abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy: birth defects may have been detected at this time or money to obtain an abortion earlier may not have been available. According to an analysis of a national sample of young women obtaining abortions in 2008, women with less education, Black women, and women who experienced unemployment or separation from a partner were more likely than others to have a later-term abortion. Without access to late-term abortions, Black women may be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, which can lead to economic insecurity and poor mental health outcomes for themselves and their families.
“This bill is not about protecting women or children, instead, it is another blatant attempt to prevent women from exercising their constitutional right,” said Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Several studies have shown that, at 20 weeks, fetuses cannot feel pain, yet this bill is based on scientifically questionable assertions that ignore the critical reasons women, specifically Black women, need access to safe, legal abortion care later in pregnancy. Black women experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy than their white counterparts and should have access to the full range of reproductive options. Abortion, at any point during a pregnancy, is a complex and personal decision that Black women have the right to make for themselves with the care and guidance of her medical provider. No politician can possibly decide what is best for a woman and her family in every circumstance.”