This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is hearing opening arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This SCOTUS case, which reflects the most significant legal challenge on the issue of abortion since Roe v. Wade, has the ability to set new precedent with regard to individual states’ abilities to protect unborn children. It will also better establish the rights states have to legislate on the matter of abortion. In the years following Roe vs. Wade, more than 60 million unborn children have lost their lives to abortion. During that time, medical advances have also made remarkable strides and offer new insight into the stages of human development.
As this landmark case progresses, I am mindful that modern science confirms that every unborn child is a human life. As early as five weeks, unborn babies have a heartbeat, and the brain and spinal cord are developing. By week 10, babies have arms and legs, fingers, and toes. They can kick and jump if startled. At week 15, babies have fully developed hearts that pump 26 quarts of blood per day. They can taste and make facial expressions. We know at this stage, they yawn, hiccup, swallow, and suck their thumbs. During this period, painful procedures trigger a hormonal stress response. And, due to advances in technology, an unborn child is now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks or earlier. Federal abortion laws are stuck in the past. Now that we have the benefit of scientific knowledge on the stages of human development, our laws must reflect these realities and be realigned to protect the unborn!
At the center of this legal battle is a Mississippi law passed in 2018 which limits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There are statutory exceptions to save the life and preserve the physical health of the mother, or in cases of severe fetal abnormality. The law was passed by overwhelming majorities in the state legislature and signed by then-Governor Phil Bryant. In a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the SCOTUS announced in May 2021 it would review the Mississippi law and will specifically consider the question of whether all pre-viability bans on abortion are unconstitutional.
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It is important to note that the United States is one of only four countries that allows abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. In fact, more than 75% of countries throughout the world do not permit elective abortion past the 12th week of gestation. Extremists on the left would have one believe that upholding states’ rights to protect unborn children is somehow an infringement upon one’s personal liberty, when such a ruling will allow states the opportunity to align policies with those that currently exist throughout most of the world. Additionally, by upholding the principles of federalism on the matter of abortion, the SCOTUS has the opportunity to benefit its citizenry. After all, the Mississippi law is designed to protect unborn children as well as the health and well-being of women. It should not be forgotten that mothers who obtain abortions, especially at late stages, often experience physical and emotional trauma. We must empower women by promoting a culture of life.
We must also ensure that pregnant mothers have access to the quality medical care and support needed to deliver healthy babies, which is why I have co-authored several initiatives to improve maternal health throughout the nation.
Tragically, the United States is one of the only countries in the developed world with a rising maternal mortality rate. Around 700 women die each year in pregnancy related deaths—though 3 in 5 of those deaths are preventable.
The problem is especially prevalent in rural communities and amongst women of color who continue to experience disproportionately high rates of maternal and infant mortality. We can and must address this growing problem.
Along with my colleagues, G.K. Butterfield and Lisa Blunt-Rochester, I have introduced the bipartisan Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act. It will use data mapping to identify areas of the country where poor maternal health rates overlap with a lack of broadband access to deploy telehealth services most effectively. Including this information into our broadband mapping will help us achieve this goal and ensure moms get the prenatal care they deserve.
Additionally, another bill I co-authored, the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, has recently been signed into law. It will help improve maternal health care for Veterans. Embracing a culture of life means modernizing our laws to protect all life and using every tool at our disposal to improve health outcomes for all moms and babies.
LifeNews Note: Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis is a Republican from Palm Harbor, representing Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes all of Pasco and northern parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. He was first elected to Congress on November 7, 2006.