Abortion opponents in the state Legislature have called for a ban on the procedure 20 weeks after fertilization, based on what they contend is “substantial medical evidence” that an unborn child beyond that stage in a pregnancy is capable of feeling pain. However, in the proposal sponsored by the entire Republican state House delegation representing west Oakland County, an exemption is included to protect the life of a mother — yet no exemption is drafted into House Bills (HBs) 5343 and 5344 for the heinous cases of rape or incest. We strongly urge lawmakers to insert such an exemption.
Under HBs 5343 and 5344, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would subject someone who performs an abortion on a fetus more than 20 weeks into the development process to a felony sentence of up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine.
State Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake, Highland) is the lead sponsor of the legislation, while state Reps. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), Chuck Moss (R-Orchard Lake), Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom) and Bill Rogers (R-Milford) are all co-sponsors, along with a bevy of other state House Republicans.
This is just the latest effort from the GOP-controlled state Legislature to put the reigns on abortions in Michigan. Last year, Michigan lawmakers opted to ban a procedure known by opponents as “partial-birth abortion.” In that legislation, as well, no exemption for the cases of rape or incest was included — a move we decried at the time, and a move we continue to decry today with the proposal currently awaiting hearings in the state House Health Policy Committee, which Haines chairs.
Both Rogers and Haines said they could possibly support Kowall’s legislation if it came out of committee with such an amendment, and we hope other lawmakers have the same sensibilities.
Victims of rape and incest, in some cases, could reasonably be too ashamed or fearful to come forward and admit they were the victims of such atrocious crimes. With such a significant emotional weight on their shoulders, it’s reasonable to assume that in some cases, the victim being willing to acknowledge their victimhood — and the pregnancy that was the result of rape or incest — may not come until after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Effectively requiring a woman — or yes, in some cases, even young girls — to carry to full-term her attacker’s child after 20 weeks is the equivalent of dumping salt into a gaping wound for the victim.
And, mind you, amending the legislation to allow for rape or incest victims to have abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy doesn’t require that they do so — it only says they are allowed to in those extreme circumstances. That shouldn’t be controversial.
While everyone agrees that reducing the number of abortions performed in the United States is a laudable and worthy goal, and we don’t fault lawmakers of both political persuasions for attempting to accomplish that, reasonable exemptions need to be made is the most heinous of circumstances. Rape and incest certainly qualify as those.