The Arizona congressmember announced his decision to expand his bill on Friday. In a statement, Franks compared Gosnell — who has been convicted of killing of three infants that were born alive following botched illegal, unsanitary abortion procedures — to all late-term abortion procedures. “Had Kermit Gosnell dismembered these babies before they had traveled down the birth canal only moments earlier, he would have, in many places nationwide, been performing an entirely legal procedure,” Franks said.
However, that’s a gross mischaracterization of the state of legal abortion services throughout the country. Abortion opponents have repeatedly attempted to twist the facts surrounding Gosnell’s high-profile murder trial to make it appear as if his crimes are rampant throughout legal abortion clinics. But that’s simply not the case. The Philadelphia-area abortion doctor was guilty of much more than simply breaking Pennsylvania’s law that criminalizes abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy; he was also able to offer discounted prices for his services because he didn’t employ medical professionals or adhere to safety standards. Gosnell’s “house of horrors” isn’t analogous to the way that legal, sanitary late-term abortion clinics provide care to the women who need it.
Furthermore, it’s misleading to pretend that Franks’ quest to cut off legal abortion care at just 20 weeks represents a push to ban late-term abortions. In fact, 20-week abortion bans are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade‘s guarantee of legal abortion rights until the point of viability, which is generally accepted to occur around 24 weeks of pregnancy. That’s why, after a handful of states recently enacted 20-week bans, several of them landed in court.
DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has fought against Franks’ 20-week abortion ban every time he’s proposed it. She maintains that imposing abortion bans on the District of Columbia is a “stealth way” for abortion opponents to discreetly challenge Roe, since DC doesn’t have any representation in Congress. Now that the bill will apply to the rest of the nation, she remains committed to working to defeat it. “With the help of women nationwide, we defeated the D.C. abortion ban bill on the House floor last Congress. Now that the Franks bill will expressly target all U.S. women, we can expect an even stronger national response to this attack on women’s health,” Holmes Norton said in a statement.
Ironically, pushing to restrict women’s access to abortion isn’t actually an effective policy solution to prevent future Kermit Gosnells. If Franks and his anti-choice colleagues wanted to ensure that desperate women in other states don’t have to resort to illegal providers like Gosnell, they should actually be working to make abortion services more affordable and accessible to low-income women.