The pro-life v. pro-choice debate continued on the House floor yesterday as party representatives grappled with sustaining women’s reproductive rights in a surfacing abortion bill. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved a bill banning a woman’s right to pursue an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, subtracting two weeks off the current cut-off of abortions at 24 weeks in utero. The majority-Republican party passed this bill shaving off the extra two weeks based off the medically disputed theory that a fetus is capable of feeling pain 20 weeks after conception (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy). Democrats in the House and the White House fought against the bill, saying the legislation is an “assault on a woman’s right to choose” and is an attempt to undermine the precedent set in the 1973 Roe v. Wade trial.
The argument quickly split down party lines (only six party members from each side voting against their party) and escalated into a debate on women’s reproductive rights. In this heated bipartisan debate, representatives from both sides evoked emotional appeals. Though different in message, consistent across both lines is the lack of the female voice. While the House attempted to integrate more women in this debate, only 19 of the 222 Republican House members who voted for this bill are women. In total, the House of Representatives only has 78 women, accounting for a meager 18% voice in the House. Furthermore, there are no Republican women on the Judiciary Committee panel that has jurisdiction over this particular legislation.
While this bill certainly made headlines, the threat of it obtaining further approval is low. Sources agree that the bill will not find support in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama has also already voiced his opposition. Although no abortion laws are changing today, it is important to keep abreast on the dialogue surrounding this controversial and emotional topic. Most importantly, government representatives must do a better job of allowing women’s voices and opinions to be heard. Female reproductive rights issues have been considered taboo for too long, and an open dialogue in the government may help bridge the gap between women and policy.