The Washington Post's Melinda Henneberger hid the facts behind a defeated Texas bill that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks, which a majority of Texans opposed and which would have unconstitutionally limited access to safe and legal women's health services.
On June 25, a Democratic filibuster during a special session of the Texas state senate effectively blocked a bill that would have banned all abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill included exceptions for cases when the life of the mother was threatened but not for rape or incest, and if it had passed Texas would have some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country. Governor Rick Perry has called a second special session to take up the bill again, starting July 1.
Henneberger claimed in her Washington Post blog She The People that while she admired Wendy Davis, the Democratic senator who carried out the filibuster, she still supported the bill, in part because more Americans and American women favor than oppose restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy:
Because no matter how many thousands of times abortion rights supporters repeat that the bill's ban on abortions after 20 weeks is anti-woman -- hateful in effect and by design -- that's just the opposite of the way I see it. And it isn't how a majority of Americans, or American women, see it, either:
In a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, Americans said they favor a bill like the Texas measure, 48 percent to 44 percent. More than half of politically unaffiliated Americans -- 53 percent -- backed such a bill. And 50 percent of women said they were in favor compared to 46 percent of men.
But a recent poll revealed that in fact a majority of Texans do not support the restrictions on abortion the bill proposed. According to the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR), a representative poll conducted June 17 - 19 found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the legislation. 63 percent said the state has enough restrictions on abortion already, and 80 percent did not want the special session to deal with matters of abortion at all. Fifty-two percent of Texans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 74 percent -- including a majority of Republicans and Independents -- say private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians. Fifty-seven percent do not trust the governor or the legislature to make decisions about women's healthcare.
Moreover, Henneberger glossed over the realities of the bill, which unconstitutionally limits women's right to legal abortions and would severely limit women's access to safe and legal abortion procedures. As Mother Jones reported, the bill's ban on abortions after 20 weeks is unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman's right to a legal abortion until the point the fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks. In recent months, similar bans have been struck down as unconstitutional in two other states.
The bill would also force nearly all of the clinics in the state to close. The bill requires all abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed, and would force all clinics to obtain costly renovations and upgrades to meet new standards. These regulations would likely result in all but 5 of the 42 abortion clinics in the state to close or stop offering abortion services, leaving clinics only in a few major metropolitan areas and severely limiting women's access to these health centers throughout the state.
Henneberger has a history of missing the facts in the abortion debate. She previously aided the anti-choice group Live Action's attempt to smear a legal abortion clinic by falsely suggesting that a woman depicted in an undercover video was never asked whether she was sure she wanted a legal late term abortion despite the “apparent qualms” the woman demonstrated. Henneberger later issued a correction to the story, acknowledging that the full transcripts of the video revealed no illegal or questionable practices.
Henneberger concluded by attempting to link the Texas abortion ban to the convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. But Gosnell's business model was to prey on women who could not get legal abortions, revealing the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the very services that the Texas bill sought to limit and restrict.
Image Credit: Whole Women's Health