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20-Week Abortion Bill Advanced By All-Male Congressional Panel

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Republicans in the House Judiciary subcommittee voted on Tuesday to expand Rep. Trent Franks' (R-Ariz.) proposed D.C. abortion bill to apply to the whole country and advanced the bill favorably to the full committee. The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the United States in all cases except those in which the mother's life is in danger.

All four Democrats on the panel voted against advancing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, arguing that it is unconstitutional and allows no exceptions for rape victims, incest victims, women whose health is endangered by a pregnancy, and cases of severe fetal anomalies. The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade protects women's ability to have an abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is usually believed to occur around the 24th week of pregnancy.

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said they objected to the fact that all of the lawmakers debating the abortion bill are men and that none are doctors. "It is totally out of order for us to determine a medical question like this under the guise of acting as members of the very vital House Judiciary Committee," Conyers said. "No good has ever come from an all-male committee deciding the law about a woman's body. This is not appropriate."

Deutch said that watching "a group of men" make medical decisions on behalf of women is "hard for people to take."

"To insert a role of politics in all this, in what for [some parents] has gone from the greatest exulation they may have felt as a married couple to the depths of despair at learning they have found themselves in a situation they have to make that painful decision, is just not what we should be doing," he said.

All six Republicans on the panel voted in favor of the amendment to expand the bill nationwide. They argued that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a claim that is medically disputed, and suggested that the Supreme Court might eventually come around to their side on the abortion issue. Franks challenged the notion that his bill is part of what the Democrats have called a Republican "war on women."

Late-term abortions "have been happening hundreds of times every single day for decades in America," he said. "Those who incomprehensibly call trying to change this a 'war on women' overlook the fact that roughly half of these babies that are so torturously killed each day are just little tiny women."

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