Richmond, VA-Last night, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a group of Republican legislators introduced HB2321, a dangerous measure to ban abortion at 20 weeks in Virginia. This bill was introduced on the heels of Congressional House Republicans pulling H.R. 36 after an outcry from several women within the party. This abortion ban is unconstitutional and a blatant attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade at the expense of the health of Virginia women.
“The cruel and misguided attacks we are seeing on women’s access to abortion reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the real world consequences for women and families. While women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under complex circumstances — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.” said Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid. “Instead, HB2321 would criminalize abortions in such situations, preventing women from being able to make these deeply personal and complex medical decisions.“
Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the United States occur before 21 weeks. Often, abortions later in pregnancy involve rare, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the woman’s health. In these circumstances, it is critical that a physician be able to provide the care he or she deems most appropriate, without interference from politicians.
“HB2321 is a part of a broader effort to chip away at access to abortion, and it is deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans, as well as medical professionals,” said Stewart-Reid. “HB2321 would further harm women in need by creating additional obstacles to receiving a safe and legal abortion. Women need support, not additional barriers, to obtaining timely, safe health care.”
Regardless of how one personally feels about abortion, we can all agree that it’s important for a woman to have medically accurate information about her pregnancy. Bans on abortions after 20 weeks are often based on unproven assertions about fetal pain. Medical experts, including the highly respected and trusted American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are in agreement that science does not support these claims. From a public health perspective, however, banning abortion after 20 weeks is dangerous because it could prevent doctors from providing the best care to their patients in an individual situation. Some fetal testing is not possible until after 20 weeks, and the results are not something that a woman can plan for. An article in the Texas Observer chronicles the heartbreaking story of a Texas woman who needed to end a pregnancy due to a lethal fetal abnormality and was forced to pawn her wedding ring and travel out-of-state because of Texas’ 20-week abortion ban.
Women do not turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. The General Assembly must reject this attempt to limit women’s access to safe and legal health care.