Daily Dispatches
An ultrasound photo of a baby at 20 weeks gestation.
Photo courtesy of Whitney Williams
An ultrasound photo of a baby at 20 weeks gestation.

Vital Signs: Fetal pain bills birthed in six more states

Abortion

20 Weeks. Fetal pain bills, which ban abortion after 20 weeks, continued to make progress this month in three Southern state legislatures. 

Mississippi’s House voted 89-22 to pass a 20-week abortion ban on Feb. 13. The House voted down an amendment for rape and incest exceptions, yet the bill includes exceptions for the health of the mother and severe fetal abnormalities. West Virginia’s 20-week abortion ban initially died in committee, but pro-life delegates revived the bill and passed it out of two house committees last week. It is expected to pass the full West Virginia House.

In South Carolina, a legislative panel voted Feb. 18 to advance a bill banning abortions after 19 weeks to the state’s House Judiciary Committee. Planned Parenthood intends “to do everything they can to fight back,” Sloane Whelan of South Carolina’s Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund told Politico

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Florida, South Dakota, and Wisconsin may also introduce their own 20-week abortion bans, according to Politico. Currently nine states have enacted fetal pain bills. 

Although abortions performed past the 20th week constitute only a small percentage of total abortions, pro-life advocates still see fetal pain bills as a vital step in the abortion battle. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser told Politico that regulating abortion facilities is not enough: Fetal pain bills mark the first step in stopping abortion entirely.  

Gender discrimination. In other pro-life legislative news, South Dakota’s House approved a bill Feb. 19 that prohibits abortions based on a baby’s gender. Although opponents argued the ban is unenforceable, lawmakers voted 60-10 to send the measure to the Senate for further debate. 

The bill would make it a Class 6 felony, carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine, for an abortionist to knowingly perform or attempt a sex-selective abortion. Abortionists would have to ask women whether they had found out the baby’s sex and whether they wanted the abortion because of its gender.

Rep. Jenna Haggar, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is necessary now that technology allows parents to learn their baby’s gender earlier in a pregnancy, National Right to Life News reported. 

Non-political payments. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has decided to absorb the cost of 15 Medicaid-eligible abortions rather than seek the governor’s permission for payment. 

The hospital’s decision follows the enactment of a law requiring the governor to sign off on any payments for publicly funded abortions. While Democrats noted the measure applied only to reimbursements, not approvals ahead of time, Republicans believed the added scrutiny might put an end to abortions under Medicaid.

University spokesman Tom Moore said the state-owned hospital system decided to absorb the $27,500 cost of the procedures to stay out of the “politics of this matter.” The law could have put pro-life Gov. Terry Branstad in the difficult position of potentially violating federal guidelines that require Medicaid to fund abortions in cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life. 

But now, Branstad can say he never approved Medicaid-funded abortions, a claim Jill June, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s president, calls “deceitful” since he was never presented with the decision. However, pro-life advocate Rep. Matt Windschitl still believes the law has done its job.

“The ultimate goal is to make sure taxpayer dollars are not being used for a purpose that people find morally unconscionable,” he said.  

Abortionist suspended. The Texas Medical Board (TMB) temporarily suspended an abortionist’s license after an investigation revealed he performed abortions illegally.

Theodore M. Herring Jr. of Houston performed 268 abortions without admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a regulation required under pro-life laws Texas passed last summer. A lower court judge struct down the law in October, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it. Abortion advocates have appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in the meantime, the law has gone into effect. 

Herring’s license will remain suspended until further review by the medical board, which may not occur until May, Texas Right to Life reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Courtney Crandell
Courtney Crandell

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