House Fails to Pass D.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban


In a remarkable vote, an anti-choice dominated House of Representatives failed to pass HR 3803, a bill that would have imposed a 20-week abortion ban on the District of Columbia. The bill was intended to severely restrict access to safe, legal abortion care for women in the District and was opposed by District residents.

Supporters of the bill, originally championed by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority required to pass it. Franks is notable for his constant attacks on women (see, for example, PRENDA) and clearly has been on a mission to replicate at the federal level the law passed by the Arizona legislature and signed into law by virulently anti-choice, anti-woman Governor Jan Brewer and recently upheld by a district court judge. Yes, women can be misogynists (see, for example, Jan Brewer, Kelly Ayotte, Sharron Angle and the rest).

According to legal analysts, HR 3803 would have criminalized all abortions performed in the District after 20 weeks’ gestation—prohibiting physicians from providing such procedures with absolutely no health exception for a woman in any circumstance other than an immediate threat to her life.

Even with a broad health exception the bill would have been blatantly unconstitutional, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, as it aimed to ban abortions before viability—an issue that has been long settled under U.S. Supreme Court precedent. “Nevertheless, House Judiciary Committee members recently rejected even the narrowest of additional health exceptions when advancing the bill to a floor vote.

Women’s health and rights advocates celebrated defeat of the bill.

“The House did the right thing by voting down this cruel and unconstitutional bill that interferes with a woman’s most personal, private medical decisions,” said Vania Leveille, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “Members of Congress should not play politics with women’s lives, and impose their personal ideology on the District of Columbia without regard for the rights, needs and wishes of the local community.”

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