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To:       Interested parties
From:   Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 212-261-4433; [email protected]
Date:    Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Re:       Polling Shows Nationwide 20-Week Abortion Ban is Deeply Unpopular

This afternoon, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to push for a Senate vote on the nationwide 20-week abortion ban bill that he introduced in November 2013. If enacted, the bill would restrict a woman’s ability to make personal, private medical decision with her doctor and would criminalize doctors seeking to provide constitutionally protected care. The legislation mirrors the version that passed the House of Representatives last June.

Senator Graham is facing a primary challenge from tea party candidates on June 10.

Last summer, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national organization representing thousands of women’s health experts, came out against these types of abortion restrictions, reinforcing that they are dangerous to patients’ health and safety.

Abortion bans like this one are deeply unpopular, with polling from Hart Research Associates showing that when voters understand the real-world circumstances surrounding abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, they overwhelmingly oppose laws that would ban the procedure at that stage. A strong majority of voters — Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (78 percent), and Independents (71 percent) – say this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on. 

The poll also found that:

  • A solid 60 percent of registered voters support access to safe and legal abortion at 20 weeks in cases of severe fetal abnormalities, with only 33 percent opposing access.
  • Sixty-six percent (66%) of all voters say abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if a woman’s doctor determines that the woman would suffer serious, long-lasting health problems if she carried the pregnancy to term;
  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters say abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if a woman's doctor determines that the fetus is not yet viable and the woman and her family determine that her health and personal circumstances are such that she should not continue her pregnancy; and
  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters say abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if a pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

Statement from Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“While a woman should not have to justify her personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

“Time and time again, voters have said that attacks on safe and legal abortion are not what their elected officials should be focused on. In November, voters in Albuquerque rejected similar legislation seeking to ban abortions at 20 weeks by 10 points, showing that Americans don’t want to take personal medical decisions out of the hands of women and their doctors.

“We’ve seen what happens when politicians interfere in these deeply personal medical decisions and tie doctors’ hands. In states that have passed laws like this, some women and their families have been put into unimaginable situations — needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so. 

“It is deeply disappointing that Senator Graham wants to put more women in these horrible situations, simply to score political points with extreme opponents of safe and legal abortion.”

Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks’ gestation. When abortion later in pregnancy does happen, it is often in a situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

Julie Bindeman and her husband found themselves in just this situation. They decided that they wanted to have a second child. She went in for a routine doctor’s visit and went for a 20-week scan to determine whether they were having a boy or a girl. The doctor looked at her and said, “I’m so sorry. What they found at the scan was that the brain ventricles were enlarged.” The doctor told them that other aspects of the brain were very malformed — diagnosing ventriculomegaly with the likelihood of anencephaly, a severe fetal abnormality incompatible with life.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” Julie Bindeman said. “This has to do with the choices that my husband and I needed to make.”

To illustrate the effect such a law would have on women like Julie and their families, Planned Parenthood is sharing videos in which Julie and two other women tell their powerful, heartbreaking stories of abortion later in pregnancy: