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A bill that would legally restrict abortion to the first 20 weeks after conception was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the US.

The bill was voted through by 228 votes to 196, but the White House has already threatened a veto and the bill has no chance of going through the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.  If the new law were to be passed, it would mean that abortion would be permitted for a shorter time period. Most states currently allow abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy. This is also the time at which a fetus becomes viable outside of its mother's womb with current medical technology.

Technological advances mean that premature babies who would not have stood a chance of survival just a decade ago can now go on to live very normal lives, after a period of quality medical care in the neonatal intensive care unit. Where should the line be drawn in countries where abortion is legal? This topic is always the subject of debates, both within legislative bodies and within the general population. There is a certain logic to banning abortion at the very point where it would be possible for the fetus to survive outside its mother's body though, and this point seems to be moving downward constantly. Babies that were born before that crucial 24 week mark have certainly survived though in at least one case, the baby's mother needed to lie about gestational age for her baby to receive care. (See UK preemie born at five months leaves hospital healthy.)

The age at which a fetus becomes viable wasn't the reason Republicans pushed this bill through the House of Representatives, though their moves was a reaction to the Kermit Gosnell case. Remember that abortion doctor who was recently sentenced to life in prison because he killed (at least) three babies that he was supposedly aborting but who were born alive? The doctor "snipped" the babies' necks with scissors. The clinic was apparently horrendously dirty, and a patient died after being given too much anesthesia.

Gosnell was spared the death penalty but got the closest thing to justice he's in his 70s and will never come out of prison alive. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: "Listen, after this Kermit Gosnell trial and some of the horrific acts that were going on, the vast majority of the American people believe in the substance of this bill, and so do I." Indeed, it's fairly safe to assume that most Americans condemn Gosnell's criminal and inhumane acts, and that most Americans do not believe that abortion of near-term babies should be legal. Perhaps he is taking too big a leap when he says that most Americans would therefore also support this bill, though.

The bill makes an exception for women who got pregnant following rape. Nice. But it also requires that the woman first reports the crime she was a victim of to the police. This is condescending and ignores the fact that there are many different types of rape including incest and rape within a relationship. It also ignores the fact that many rape victims never report what happened to them, for a wide variety of reasons. I don't think it's weird to suggest that the very women who don't feel comfortable going to the police might also be in denial about a rape-conceived pregnancy or simply in a huge dilemma whether to continue the pregnancy or not. Should we force these women to have a child conceived by a rapist then? Apparently, these questions aren't very important.

The bill's sponsor Frank Trents, a Republican congressman, says that the "incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy [is] very low". As a rape victim, I feel more than entitled to say that this assessment is misleading. Again, stranger rape isn't the only type of rape, and very many cases of rape go unreported. It is not possible to know what percentage of woman get pregnant after being raped, at all. Anecdotes don't make up data, but the relevant data just isn't available here. Anecdotes are all that I can go by, and I'll say that there are many women in my rape victims' support group who got pregnant by their rapist. Many chose abortion.

Some chose abortion after being in doubt for weeks, while others opted to have early terminations. Others chose to continue their pregnancy. Some of those are open about the circumstances of their child's conception with their child and the rest of the world, while most are not. I am personally anti-abortion, but also anti-banning abortion because I do not believe legislative bodies have the right to determine a woman's destiny. The comments about pregnancy following rape do a good job at demonstrating that some politicians are simply out of touch with reality. It is useful to remember that 88 percent of the House of Representatives is made up by white men. Elements of the House of Representatives are short-sighted, and care more about pushing their personal political agendas than they care about the women who would be affected by this bill. This is enough, I think, to conclude that they're simply not qualified to make this call.

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