Another Missed Opportunity on Abortion

December 6th, 2006

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As they prepare to clear out of their big majority offices and into somewhat smaller digs, the conservatives who run Congress are taking one last shot on abortion. Unfortunately, they are missing the real target.

H.R. 6099, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, is on the House of Representative’ calendar for a vote today.

What is H.R. 6099?

Answer: An Act that would require every abortion provider to offer to every woman seeking any type of abortion starting at 22 weeks’ gestational age a brochure containing information about the capacity of her fetus to feel pain during an abortion (according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a scientifically unsettled fact for that gestation point). The woman must then fill out a form requesting or refusing the medication for the fetus and affirm that she has read: “There is substantial evidence that the process of being killed by an abortion will cause the unborn child pain …” Abortion providers who fail to comply would face potentially serious civil actions by the Attorney General, their State medical licensing authority, the pregnant woman or the parent or legal guardian of a minor. The bill also defines pregnancy as starting at fertilization, instead of at the implantation of the fertilized egg (the accepted medical definition).

What isn’t H.R. 6099?

Answer: A bill that responds to the root causes of abortion in any way. H.R. 6099 does not help lower then number of unintended pregnancies in America (which is half of all pregnancies, half of which end in abortion), nor does it lend a helping hand to pregnant women and parents who need the support to grow their families. Rather, H.R. 6099 targets doctors of women who have already decided to have an abortion. Moreover, it would apply only to a miniscule number of abortions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a mere 1.4% of abortions occur at 21 weeks’ gestation or later (and this bill applies starting at 22 weeks’ gestation).

Congress is on the cusp of changing hands, and conservatives have chosen to use their last chance to address the number of abortions in America on a bill that misses the opportunity.

Though this is disturbing, it is hardly surprising. President Bush and this Congress have done nothing meaningful to address the underlying causes of abortion. There are still 1.3 million abortions every year in America (one in five pregnancies ends in abortion) and since the early 1990s, the rate of decline has slowed.

Moreover, none of the major abortion initiatives have been designed to reduce abortions. Partial birth abortions account for only 8 in every 10,000 abortions. The Child Custody Protection Act, would also have an insignificant effect on the number of abortions in America (see our talking points on this issue).

Third Way understands the unenviable position progressives are in when facing this bill. They want to preserve the right to an abortion without coercion or penalties, yet they do not want to undermine their commitment to the ethical and humane treatment of developing life. Whatever their position, progressives ought to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of reducing the number of abortions in America through prevention of unintended pregnancies and support for pregnant women and parents. Please take a look at our suggested talking points on the bill.