In the wee hours of last night, an anti-abortion bill in the Texas legislature was defeated, almost single-handedly, by a state senator named Wendy Davis. You might be wondering:
Where did this bill come from? Gov. Rick Perry (R) had asked for abortion to be added to a special session of the Texas legislature (which only meets for 140 days every two years). Last week, Republican lawmakers introduced companion bills in the House and Senate, passing them over the objections of crowds of protesters.
You know, the Fort Worth Democrat who stood for eleven hours to filibuster a bill in the Texas State Senate that would place new restrictions on abortion clinics and ban the practice after 20 weeks of pregnancy? Here's what you need to know. [UPDATE: She stood long enough to kill the bill, Texas' Lieutenant Governor ruled at 3:01 a.m.]
The Todd Akin controversy has highlighted the divide between anti-abortion politicians like Mitt Romney who support exemptions allowing women to terminate pregnancies caused by rape or incest and those like Akin and Paul Ryan who argue that the procedure should only be allowed when a mother’s life is at risk.
Congress is currently weighing a law that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. Willie Parker, a Washington-based obstetrician, is one doctor who has performed late-term abortions here and stands to be directly affected, should that law pass. An obstetrician for two decades, he only began performing abortions eight years ago, largely out of what he says was concern for women’s needs going unmet. Parker is primarily based in Washington and Philadelphia, but also travels monthly to see patients in Alabama.
Many late-term abortion providers do not identify themselves largely due to safety concerns. (One late-term doctor, George Tiller, was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in 2010). But Parker made himself available for an interview on Friday afternoon. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity and length:
Sarah Kliff: What would it mean for Washington to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks?
Willie Parker: The reality is that, a small percentage of overall women who have abortions have them beyond 13 weeks. It’s about 1 percent. Those cases do happen in D.C. like they happen everywhere else. There are unplanned pregnancies, people who are in poverty who might delay their diagnosis and might end up in this group of people. Those are the women who could be affected.