As the capital city of the United States Washington, D.C. is not a state and has only a nonvoting representation in Congress. Congress has the power to create and pass any laws for D.C. that it pleases so basically D.C. has only a facsimile of self-government. For the most part Congress doesn’t abuse this power and lets city officials be a government without a large amount of interference. One area of D.C. life that Congress is apparently totally ok with interfering in is abortion rights.
Last year as part of a national spending bill they included a ban on spending local D.C. taxes on abortion coverage through the city’s Medicaid program. This was in spite of the fact that D.C. officials and residents made it abundantly clear that they should have the right to determine how they want to spend their own money and they want to cover abortions in the city Medicaid program.
This year it seems they want to go after D.C. abortions rights again. Representative Trent Franks (R- AZ) has introduced the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which would prohibit women in D.C. from having abortions past 20 weeks. Similar legislation has been introduced in a number of state legislatures based on the shaky theory that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 week and is currently active in 5 states.
The research supporting this claim is shaky at best and in fact most researchers and medical associations including the American College of Gynecology and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists assert that fetal pain doesn’t develop until much later in a pregnancy. In fact research done by researchers at the University of California San Francisco shows a fetus most likely doesn’t feel pain until around 28 weeks. In other words a full two months after this kind of ban prohibits abortions.
The proposed law does have an exemption for the life of the mother but it does not include one for when the fetus has a defect that makes it incompatible with life even though this is one of the primary reasons people have abortions past 20 weeks. So basically the law is pointless in protecting against pain for two primary reasons. First a fetus likely can’t feel pain that early anyway. The second reason it doesn’t protect against pain is because it will actually cause pain. A pregnancy that would have been ended due to a defect will have to be carried to term; the pregnant person would have to give birth which is in fact pretty painful. Then the parents have suffered through losing the baby that can’t survive outside of the womb. It seems to me that this law is not protection; it’s mostly just cruel.