On the Hill: War on Women Ramps Up

In a move sure to please their conservative base while infuriating many others, the GOP has introduced a slate of new anti-abortion measures. Not only do these actions restart the attack on women’s rights that derailed much of the 2012 presidential election for conservatives, they do so at a time when the support for abortion is at its highest level in years.

The most extreme of these new bills, the Sanctity of Life Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) and seeks to define human life as beginning at “the moment of conception.” This bill, which (thankfully) has no cosponsors, also calls upon state governments to protect “the lives of those within the State’s jurisdiction whom the State rationally regards as human beings,” which according to this bill would mean every fertilized egg. While this bill is unlikely to pass Congress anytime soon because of its extreme nature, it’s worth noting that this is an old bill which has been reintroduced several times since it was initially proposed in 1995.

A much more worrying bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was recently introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and currently has forty-five Republican co-sponsors. Based on a similar bill that passed the House of Representatives with the support of several Democrats, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act uses faulty science to justify a federal ban on abortion after twenty weeks of gestation.

It’s unlikely that this bill will clear the Senate, as Republicans will have a hard time finding sixty votes to end a filibuster against it, which is likely to occur if the bill makes its way to the Senate floor. Even then, President Obama is extremely likely to veto the bill and send it back to Congress where it will need a huge amount of support in order to overcome a presidential veto, a situation that is highly unlikely as most Democrats remain firmly pro-choice.

Still, bills like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act are concerning because they enjoy a lot of support among both conservative activists and legislators. If Republicans maintain control over Congress in 2016 and win back the White House, it’s highly likely that a federal ban on abortion after twenty weeks could become the law of the land, removing women’s autonomy over their own bodies and jeopardizing the lives of countless people who are unable to receive a safe, legal abortion after twenty weeks.

Rather than attempting to improve women’s lives by removing pay inequity in the workforce or by dealing with the rampant sexual violence in the military, the religious right in Congress has decided once again to please its base by advocating for legislation that seeks to take away fundamental human rights. While for many this is uncontroversial news because of the right’s history of “pro-life” policies, the United States should be extremely concerned by the potential impact of this legislation if progressives lose control of the White House and religious extremists are able to enact their agenda.