Thursday, May 14, 2015


 WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 36, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. urged his colleagues to vote in opposition to the measure.  Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a dangerous and far reaching attack on a woman's constitutional right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy - a right that the Supreme Court guaranteed 42 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

“One of the most significant problems with this legislation is that it fails to include any exception for a woman’s health.  Many serious health conditions materialize or worsen late in pregnancy, including damage to the heart and kidneys, hypertension, and even some forms of hormone-induced cancer.

“Yet, by failing to include a health exception, H.R. 36 would force a woman to wait until her condition was nearly terminal before she could obtain an abortion to address her health condition. 

“In addition, H.R. 36 is unconstitutional based on longstanding Supreme Court precedent.  Roe v. Wade's basic holding is that a woman has a constitutional right to have an abortion prior to the fetus's viability.  Viability is generally considered to be around 24 weeks from fertilization.  By banning pre-viability abortions, H.R. 36 is a direct challenge to Roe. 

“In addition, Roe made clear that any regulation of abortion - even after viability - must not pose a substantial risk to the woman’s health.  But as I have already noted H.R. 36 lacks any exception to protect a pregnant woman's health.

“It is therefore not surprising that the nation's leading civil rights organizations, medical professionals, and women’s groups oppose this bill.  In addition, 15 religious organizations noted in a letter to Members opposing nearly identical legislation last Congress that, ‘the decision to end a pregnancy is best left to a woman in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her faith.’

“Finally, I want to be clear that contrary to assertions made by the bill’s proponents, this legislation still contains a woefully inadequate exception for victims of rape.  The so-called rape exception is still based on a complete lack of understanding of the very real challenges rape survivors face and why a rape may go unreported. 

“It is also grounded in the distrust of women - assuming that women cannot be trusted to tell the truth or to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families.

“For adult rape survivors, the bill no longer requires that the rape be reported to law enforcement.  However, a woman must still obtain counseling 48 hours prior to the abortion and the fact that she has obtained counseling for a rape must be certified and documented in her medical file. 

“And, this counseling cannot be obtained in the same facility where the abortion is provided.

“For minor victims of rape or incest, an exception from the bill’s onerous and unconstitutional restrictions only applies if the rape has been reported to law enforcement or ‘a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse.’

“So rape is not rape unless the minor has reported it - even if that means putting her own safety at risk.

“For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to oppose this dangerous legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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