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The DC Abortion Ban: A Cruel Ban for an Unfairly Unrepresented Population

“It is unconscionable that someone would come into my city from the outside and try to impose a law that doesn’t represent the best interests of anyone, especially families like mine. This proposed law is downright cruel, as it would inflict pain on the families, the women, and the babies it purports to protect.” –Christy Zink

It’s round three in the Judiciary Committee. Last Thursday, Trent Franks (R-AZ) held yet another hearing on yet another bill that is aimed at denying women access to a constitutional right. This time the bill in discussion, the D.C. Abortion Ban (H.R. 3803), seeks to impose a ban on almost all abortions 20 weeks post-fertilization. The only exception to the ban is to save the life of the mother, and even that exception is restricted to when the mother faces physical life-threatening problems (being suicidal is apparently not life-threatening…). It is unconstitutional because it bans abortions pre-viability and fails to include any exception for health.

Oh, and did I mention that the bill only affects D.C. (a population who has no voting representative in Congress)?

The hearing began with a brief tangling over whether the only popularly-elected official for DC would get to testify on a bill that only affects DC. After the kerfuffle ended (with Rep. Franks again refusing to allow Rep. Norton Holmes to testify), the four witnesses gave their testimony. There were three witnesses called by the Republicans to testify in support of the ban, speaking on issues such as the procedure for a second trimester abortion, the pain responses of premature babies, and perinatal hospice care.

And then last, but certainly not least, followed the testimony of a woman – the Democrats’ only allowed witness – who spoke about how this ban would have actually affected her. This witness, Christy Zink, testified on her incredibly sad story of being pregnant and learning that her son had severe fetal abnormalities, including that, “in effect, our baby was … missing one side of his brain.” After consulting with some of the best radiologists, neurologists, and geneticists, she and her family decided to have an abortion. She testified that her family made this decision “out of love and to spare my son’s pain and suffering.” Her testimony was incredibly powerful and touching; I couldn’t imagine being in her position. And really, I don’t think anyone can until they are actually in it.

Ms. Zink’s story exemplifies how personal the decision to have an abortion is. It shows just how cruel abortion bans are, denying women access to an abortion without ever walking in their shoes. Without ever knowing what it is like to look at the MRI and see something terribly wrong with the fetus, as Ms. Zink and her family did. After hearing Ms. Zink’s story, I had one overwhelming reaction – politicians have no right to deny Ms. Zink and her family the decision they made for their family, for their son. Politicians shouldn’t pretend to be doctors (and shouldn’t criminalize the actual doctors) to decide for women what is right for her family. Really, politicians should start trusting women. It’s as simple as that: just trust women and get out of the business of defining women’s reproductive lives. To do otherwise, as Ms. Zink’s explains, is simply “unconscionable.”

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