The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a nationwide ban on abortions at 20 weeks.
Just to put any doubt to rest: Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 40 years. In that time, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the Constitution protects the right to safe and legal abortion -- and that a state may not ban abortion before the point of viability outside the uterus. In fact, unconstitutional abortion bans like this one have already been blocked by federal courts this year in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, and Idaho.
What's more, abortions that happen late in a pregnancy are extremely rare, with nearly 99 percent of all abortions taking place before 21 weeks. When a woman seeks an abortion later in pregnancy, it's often the result of heartbreaking and unusual circumstances -- the kind of situation where she and her doctor should have every medical option available.
That was true for Danielle Deaver, a mother from Nebraska. When Danielle found out she was pregnant for a second time, she was overjoyed. But 22 weeks into the pregnancy, her water broke -- there was not enough amniotic fluid for her daughter to survive. After careful thought, research, medical advice, and prayer, Danielle and her husband made the agonizing decision to induce labor as soon as possible.
Here's where an already heart-wrenching story took a turn for the worst.
Because of a law just like the one 228 members of the U.S. House of Representatives stood behind this week, Danielle's doctor was powerless to help her. He and his legal counsel said their hands were tied -- if he intervened, he could go to jail. So Danielle and her husband were forced to wait 10 days, as an infection developed, knowing that their daughter had no chance of surviving.
As Danielle puts it: "That my pregnancy ended -- that choice was made by God. How to handle the end of my pregnancy -- that should have been private."
Instead, a decision that should have belonged to Danielle, her family, and her doctor, was made by politicians they'd never met.
The bill the House passed this week won't become law -- and for that, we thank President Obama and champions of women's health in the U.S. Senate.
But these threats to women's health and rights aren't just in Congress. In the first few months of 2013, more than 300 pieces of legislation restricting access to safe and legal abortion have been introduced in states across the country -- even though a majority of Americans believe that a woman should be able to make her own decision about her pregnancy.
This continuing debate is so baffling that it's left people across the political spectrum shaking their heads -- from Rep. John Conyers, Jr., who "cannot completely fathom why we have to pretend to be doctors in the Judiciary Committee," to Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, who said, "Clearly the economy is on everyone's minds ... and now we're going to have a debate on rape and abortion. The stupidity is simply staggering."
These bills are more than staggering. They have nothing to do with protecting women. They will not promote health care. They are dangerous, they are extreme, and women are already paying the price in states where they have been enacted.