Commentary Politics

None of the GOP’s “Experts” on Abortion Policy in D.C. Are Actually From D.C.

Alesa Mackool

If Christy Zink had carried her pregnancy to term and the baby lived through it, which wasn’t guaranteed, it would have suffered a short life of seizures and near-constant pain. If H.R. 3803 were in effect in 2009, she and the doctors who advised her on her options and performed the procedure would have been subject to criminal prosecution.

D.C. resident Christy Zink was excited to be pregnant in 2009. She and her husband were looking forward to having their second child, and Zink made sure she was receiving excellent prenatal care. At 21 weeks into her pregnancy Zink found out the developing fetus was missing a central part of its brain.

In her congressional testimony Thursday against the so-called “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” Zink said she made the difficult decision to have an abortion at nearly 22 weeks.

H.R. 3803, Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-National Right to Life Committee) latest attempt to curb reproductive rights, would make abortions illegal 20 weeks after fertilization, and would only apply to Washington, D.C.

If Christy Zink had carried her pregnancy to term and the baby lived through it, which wasn’t guaranteed, it would have suffered a short life of seizures and near-constant pain. If H.R. 3803 were in effect in 2009, she and the doctors who advised her on her options and performed the procedure would have been subject to criminal prosecution.

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Zink was the only D.C. resident allowed to testify at yesterday’s hearing, as Arizona’s Franks, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, defied congressional custom and blocked D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton from speaking on a bill that would affect only her constituents.

The Republican majority called on three witnesses (from New Mexico, Chicago and West Virginia a.k.a. not D.C.) to speak on “fetal pain,” a concept dismissed by the majority of the medical community. Yet Franks and company found three “experts” to give testimony on something completely unrelated to the fact that this bill would only change the law for the more than 600,000 taxpaying residents of the nation’s capital. 

While sitting only a few feet away from Zink, Franks’ witness Dr. Anthony Levatino, who currently operates a gynecology practice in New Mexico, testified that an abortion, particularly an abortion after 20 weeks, is “easier” on the patient than the doctor. This is incredibly offensive to anyone who has ever had an abortion, especially later in her pregnancy. Zink elected to have the procedure because something terrible happened during a wanted pregnancy. This is hardly an uncommon scenario, yet H.R. 3803 makes no exceptions for fetal anomalies. Other times, due to the numerous restrictions on funding, a woman might have trouble coming up with the money for her procedure before the 20-week mark. (The DC Abortion Fund is a great resource for local women who cannot afford their reproductive care.) Whatever the reason a woman may choose to have an abortion before or after 20 weeks, to imply a procedure is “easier” for women is completely out of touch with women and the many wonderful and compassionate abortion providers across the country.

Levatino said he performed abortions earlier in his career, and he described the procedure and his eventual dislike of it in explicit detail. Any medical procedure or routine trip to the doctor can sound positively gruesome when described with the proper adjectives (try detailing your last dental cleaning with the help of thesaurus.com). Anti-choice activists like Levatino are most successful when they have us all cringing instead of thinking rationally.

But H.R. 3803 doesn’t allow for much science and reason. Reason would dictate that legislation that’s based on legitimate science, instead of the sentiments of a few anti-choice activists, would be good enough for the whole country instead of just Washington, D.C. But, you know, that would be unconstitutional.

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