Published September 24, 2021
House Democrats on Friday passed an abortion rights bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would effectively do away with all state-level restrictions on abortions. This goes far beyond what most of the world permits and what most Americans want.
“Radical” is a loaded word, but that’s exactly what this measure is. It bans any regulation of abortion services before fetal viability that is more burdensome than restrictions imposed on “medically comparable procedures.” This would strike down commonly adopted measures in states, such as the requirement that women wait for 24 hours to have an abortion after an initial consultation or that physicians who perform abortions must be admitted to practice medicine at a local hospital. It would also eliminate bans on sex-specific abortions, such as when a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy solely because of the fetus’s gender. Abortion would essentially become legal for any reason and at any time before fetal viability, which comes at roughly between the 22nd and 24th weeks of pregnancy.
This would be radical on its own. Few nations permit abortion after the first trimester. According to the pro-abortion rights Center for Reproductive Rights, most European countries permit abortion up until the 14th week of pregnancy. Many countries also have regulations that affect the availability of the procedure, such as parental notification requirements. In fact, the United States is one of only seven countries in the world that allow elective abortions after the 20th week. The House bill would at minimum put the United States on the far edge of abortion availability globally.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.