Last week, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) introduced a bill that would prohibit abortion access nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy – with no exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother — based on the scientifically unsound claim that fetuses have developed the ability to feel pain by then.
Initially applicable only to Washington D.C., Rep. Franks broadened the scope of the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act (HR 1797) on Wednesday to affect all fifty states in the U.S. The bill’s introduction followed a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that deemed a similar 20-week ban in Arizona unconstitutional. Nevertheless, Franks and eight members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution (a group with no female members) considered the law on Thursday.
Speaking with Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and antichoice activist Lila Rose on Thursday, Rep. Franks compared the antiabortion movement to the abolition of slavery and the Holocaust. He said, “We are the ones that rushed into Eastern Europe and arrested the Holocaust, we are the ones that said no more to slavery after thousands of years, and by the grace of God, we’re going to be the ones that say that we’re going to protect our own children.”
Franks’s invocation of the Black abolitionist struggle and trauma of the Holocaust equates abortion with genocide and slavery, a right-wing framework designed to evoke emotional and moral outrage from people who, rightly, abhor racially-based violence. Appropriating progressive rhetoric and others’ heritage of suffering to advance the antiabortion agenda attempts to shroud the antichoice movement with historical legitimacy and righteousness. Furthermore, this framework puts antiabortion activists, ostensibly, in solidarity with antiracist struggles.
Under the guise of racial justice, antiabortion activists have developed legislation introduced in sixteen states that prevents abortions based on race and sex discrimination. Antiabortion advocates use the language of nondiscrimination to advance their decidedly reactionary agenda of preventing abortion access from several angles. For example, in April the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act” (HB 845) was passed in Florida, which requires a person performing an abortion to sign an affidavit confirming they are not terminating the pregnancy based on the fetus’s potential race or sex. Champion of the bill, white Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights) claimed, “In America alone — without the Nazi Holocaust, without the Ku Klux Klan — Planned Parenthood and other abortionists have reduced our black population by more than 25 percent since 1973.” Black members of the House in Florida were insulted and Rep. Cynthia Stafford of Miami said the premise that white antiabortion legislators were trying to protect women and Black children from discrimination was a “bald faced lie.”
Barriers to abortion access promoted under a facade of justice obscure the Right’s underlying goal of ending abortion access altogether. This type of insidious legislation conceals the Right’s strategy of erecting so many bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles that abortion providers limit their services, for fear of being on the wrong side of the law, and people (especially immigrants and people of color) are discouraged from obtaining legal abortions.