Rep. Marsha Blackburn Uses Women's Health Act Hearing To Push Dangerous Fetal Pain Bill

Rep. Marsha Blackburn used her time testifying at the Senate Judiciary Hearing on The Women’s Health Protection Act to push for even more dangerous restrictions for women's reproductive health.
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Rep. Marsha Blackburn used her time at this Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on The Women’s Health Protection Act to push for even more dangerous 20-week abortion bans and for the passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which, as Kate Shepard at Mother Jones explained, is based on "bad science routinely trotted out by anti-abortion advocates."

Fetuses Feel Pain at 20 Weeks, and 4 Other Anti-Abortion Myths:

The House of Representatives passed a law on Tuesday banning abortions after 20 weeks across the country, based on the scientifically dubious claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point. The federal "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" draws from a model bill promoted by the National Right to Life and mirrors laws that have passed in a dozen states in the last three years.

Where does this premise for a 20-week abortion ban come from? In the debate on Tuesday, House members repeatedly cited the research of Dr. Kanwaljeet "Sunny" Anand, a University of Tennessee professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology, and neurobiology who has promoted the idea that 20 weeks post-conception is the point when a fetus begins to feel pain. His work, which has been the go-to resource for anti-abortion groups, was mentioned at least four times on the House floor. Citing Anand's findings, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) argued that "the baby responds the same way you and I respond to pain, by recoiling." She went on to claim that the pain of a fetus at 20 weeks is "possibly more intense than that felt by older newborns."

But Anand is an outlier. A 2005 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed the medical literature and found little evidence to support his conclusions. Read on...

Here's more on the legislation being discussed during today's hearing, which sadly, thanks to zealots like Blackburn in the House has absolutely no chance of ever being passed: Congress Is Actually Doing Something To Protect Reproductive Rights For Once:

Typically, when “Congress” and “women’s health” are in the same sentence, it’s because national lawmakers are pushing for a 20-week abortion ban, trying to roll back access to birth control, or working to limit low-income women’s insurance coverage for abortion. But this week, there’s something different on the agenda. On Tuesday, the Senate will consider two measures that would protect — not restrict — women’s reproductive rights.

This morning, lawmakers are debating the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” a piece of legislation intended to override the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby. Spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO), the measure would prevent for-profit businesses from dropping birth control coverage by clarifying that no federal law allows companies to refuse to follow Obamacare’s contraception mandate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has previously promised to “do something” about Hobby Lobby, has fast-tracked the legislation and could bring it to a full vote as early as Wednesday. In addition to its 40 Democratic co-sponsors, the bill has also been endorsed by a wide range of reproductive health organizations, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the political arm of the largest group of OB-GYNs in the country.

And that’s not all. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the first testimony on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a measure that was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) last year in an attempt to stem the tide of state-level attacks on abortion. Under that legislation, states would not be allowed to enact additional restrictions on abortion that either limit access to the procedure or interfere with doctors’ medical judgment.

Several reproductive rights advocates — including Dr. Willie Parker, one of the last abortion providers in Mississippi who says his Christian faith compels him to do his work — will testify at Tuesday’s committee hearing. Speakers will highlight the consequence of state-level abortion restrictions that have enshrined bad medicine into law. “Congress has the unique opportunity to truly act on behalf of women’s health and safety, and to push aside downright dishonest claims that fail to hold water against decades of medical and scientific facts,” Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, points out in her prepared testimony.

It’s unlikely either effort will succeed. While the two measures may very well be approved in the Senate, they face little hope of passing the GOP-controlled House. So it’s important to remember that a legislative fix for Hobby Lobby certainly won’t be immediate, and states will certainly continue passing additional restrictions on abortion.


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