In a speech in the US House Judiciary Committee this morning, freshman US Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA,1) called a proposal sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-8, AZ) that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, including to save the health of a woman or in cases of rape or incest, "unconstitutional" and "unconscionable."
After offering a (failed) amendment that would at least allow abortions after 20 weeks to save a woman's health, DelBene read written remarks, saying, in part:
I’m disappointed that the consideration of women’t health and safety needs have largely been absent from the ongoing conversation. All too often women’s voices are not heard and we must not forget that this legislation would impact the lives of real women across the country. ...
I think we should all be able to agree that Congress has a critical role to play in women’s health. Rather than supporting this dangerous legislation, Congress should be protecting and investing in programs that are needed to ensure that all women, regardless of income or background, have access to the affordable health care that they need to ensure that they have healthy pregnancies. ...
Instead, this bill] bans abortions necessary to protect a woman’s health and fails to recognize that there are many things that can go wrong during a woman’s pregnancy. HR 1797 would force a woman to wait unil her condition is terminal to finally protect her health, but by then it might be too late. This restriction is not only unconscionable, it’s unconstitutional. ... When we focus on legislation that comes between women and their doctors, we’re allowing Congress instead of doctors to set medical protocols.
DelBene was the only member of Washington state delegation to speak against the bill.
Watch DelBene's testimony here:
Arguing against proposals to allow exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape or incest, Franks argued—you guessed it—that pregnancy from rape or incest is rare.
“Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said in arguing for his bill today.
In response to Franks' statement, DelBene said off the cuff, "Some of the comments made in committee today about women’s health and the incidences of pregnancy from rape were outrageous and terribly uninformed. The debate that occurred was a stark reminder of why politicians have no business making the personal health care decisions for women.”
Franks' comments were startlingly similar to those made last year by his fellow Republican Todd Akin, a former representative (R-2, MO), who said that if a rape is "legitimate ... the female body has a way of shutting that whole thing down." Akin's comments helped him lose his bid for election to the US Senate.
And they echoed a statement by DelBene's unsuccessful 2012 rival John Koster, who said he knew a woman who experienced "the rape thing," kept the child, and didn't regret it. Koster's statement helped DelBene win and helped make Sandra Fluke, a former Georgetown Law School student, a rising star in the women's rights movement after she was denied the right to testify on Akin's comments by an all-male US House committee.
In response to Franks' comments, DelBene said today, “Some of the comments made in committee today about women’s health and the incidences of pregnancy from rape were outrageous and terribly uninformed. The debate that occurred was a stark reminder of why politicians have no business making the personal health care decisions for women.”