House Passes Abortion Bill, but to What End?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The House abortion bill, which passed 228 to 196 on Tuesday, seeks to prohibit abortions 20 weeks after fertilization. But it's unlikely the bill will become law anytime soon.

Republicans control the House of Representatives, but Democrats control the Senate, which is unlikely to consider the bill. The White House is threatening to veto it if it gets that far, Reuters reports.

But House Republicans' passage of the bill, while largely symbolic, may still have political consequences.

Response to Abortion Doctor's Conviction

The proposal by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) aims to capitalize on public outrage surrounding Kermit Gosnell, according to Reuters. He's the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted last month of first-degree murder of three babies, and involuntary manslaughter of a patient who died of a drug overdose while undergoing an abortion in his clinic.

But abortion rights groups argue a "relentless campaign to outlaw abortion will encourage more criminals like Kermit Gosnell," said NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue.

The legislation, called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, directly challenges the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. That case legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb.

Generally, a fetus is considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks. The House abortion bill, however, would bar abortions at 20 weeks into pregnancy.

The White House

In its veto threat, the White House made it clear that President Obama would not tolerate a significant scaling back of abortion access in the United States.

The Statement of Administration Policy stated, "This bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution."

A NARAL spokeswoman told The Washington Post she's confident the Senate won't pass the House abortion bill, as 40 Senators are "solidly pro-choice." But with some pro-choice Senators up for re-election this year, that could "tip the vote on any future anti-choice bills in the other direction."

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