Redefining what it means to be 20 weeks pregnant
Republican Rep. Jody Laubenberg insists that a bill which limits abortions to 20 weeks is a 5-month, not 4.5 month, bill. How can she do that?
- In addition to implying that a rape kit session is the same as an abortion, Laubenberg asserted that proposed legislation, Texas SB5, only prohibits abortions after five months:
- "The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.... At five months, we are talking about a human being, unless you think it's still a clump of mass ... and we have to protect that babies rights," Laubenberg said in her closing argument.
But everyone is referring to this as a 20-week abortion ban.
- It turns out that by her bill's definition 20 weeks pregnant is what everyone else thinks of as 5 months. That's because this bill, like the others it is modeled on, redefines how to determine the stage of pregnancy.
- Doctors define pregnancy at gestational age, which is based upon the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP). This is how we get to 40 weeks as the standard 9-month pregnancy.
- When Americans United for Life And National Right To Life Committee championed the first fetal pain bill, Nebraska's 2010 Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, they supported "redefin[ing] pregnancy as beginning at the moment of fertilization rather than by gestational age, reinforcing their idea that a fertilzed egg is a 'person' and overriding the traditional medical calculation of pregnancy as gestational age."
- The Texas bill, like others that focus on fetal pain, define pregnancy in conceptional age, which "will always be about 14 days younger than gestational age." So by this definition, pregnancy lasts 38 weeks, not 40 weeks.
Why this tactic? According to RH Reality Check:
- "By creating their own line with only 36 they can speed up the development of the embryo and fetus. Stating that the heart beats at 21 days implies that at three weeks the embryo already has a beating heart, when in fact real development charts show that the heart beats at what is medically accepted to be five to six weeks."
- Regardless of how it is defined, like their Nebraska counterparts, Texas Republicans want to prohibit the abortion of a fetus that is not yet viable. Will that stand legal scrutiny?
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