On Friday, Jan. 19, President Donald Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to address the pro-life March for Life convention via satellite broadcast. During his remarks to the antiabortion rights group, Trump voiced his support for a federal ban on all abortion after 20 weeks gestational age, actively calling on the Senate to vote on the measure, which has already passed the House, and send it to his desk for signature into law.
Sarah Horvath, MD, an ob-gyn and family planning fellow in Pennsylvania who is a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that banning abortion — a procedure made legal in the U.S. 45 years ago today via the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade — at 20 weeks is a “completely arbitrary cutoff.”
“There is nothing about 20 weeks that is special or medically different [when it comes to fetal development],” Horvath says. “Abortion is safe both before and after that gestation age. And abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in this country because it is legal.”
Twenty-week abortion bans — already the rule of law in 17 states in the U.S. — “end up jeopardizing women’s health and safety more than doing anything to protect them,” Horvath says.
Furthermore, Horvath notes that a preponderance of medical research and evidence shows that a fetus is incapable of feeling pain until at least 24 weeks; prior to then, the fetal brain has not developed enough to have the capacity to detect pain.
In a statement this fall when the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the passage of a federal 20-week abortion ban, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) expressed that they were “strongly oppose[d to] political efforts to limit a woman’s ability to get the care she needs, specifically, attempts to ban abortions through medically unnecessary cutoff points.”
At that time, ACOG called H.R. 36, the federal 20-week abortion ban bill in the House, “unconstitutional and a gross interference in the delivery of care.”
A report entitled “The State of Women’s Health Policy” released by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund just last week found that during 2017, Congress had 14 anti-women’s health votes — including the vote on the federal 20-week abortion ban. The House of Representatives also introduced and held a hearing on legislation that would ban abortion at just six weeks gestational age, a time before many women even know they are pregnant.
Horvath says she is “concerned” about the aggressively anti-reproductive rights agenda being pushed in Congress right now.
“We know that the reason that abortion in this country is so safe is because it is legal and accessible. So every time we put up a barrier to make it less accessible, it will also become less safe,” she says.
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