Delaware GOP lawmaker again moves to ban late-term abortions

Delaware state Sen. Bryant Richardson and anti-abortion activists announce legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

Delaware state Sen. Bryant Richardson and anti-abortion activists announce legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

On the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Republican legislators in Delaware proposed bills to ban late-term abortions.

State Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Laurel, is reintroducing a measure that aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a medical professional deems the procedure necessary for the health of the mother.

A similar measure he introduced last year was not debated.

Richardson and supporters of his legislation assert a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.

“I think the more we have scientific evidence, the more we’re going to reach the hearts and minds of legislators,” he said Tuesday. “I think the more the legislators understand the evils of this process, the more people we will have on their side to pass this legislation.”

“If we saw someone in a grocery store abusing a toddler, wouldn’t we want it to stop?” he continued. “So we need to protect the unborn.”

A companion bill calls for doctors to offer women considering abortion the opportunity to get an ultrasound before making the decision.

“A lot of women who have gone through abortions are coerced by boyfriends or family members or others,” Richardson said. The proposed legislation would make sure women could consult “with a doctor in a private area and let her make that decision.”

Delaware Right to Life and the Faith & Freedom Coalition of Delaware joined in a “Rally for Life” after lawmakers their move.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed legislation that protects a woman’s right to choose by ensuring abortion will remain legal in Delaware if the U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, is overturned.

The amended law allows abortion before a fetus reaches viability — but allows abortion after that point if a doctor determines it’s necessary for the health of the mother or if the baby is not likely to survive without extraordinary medical measures.

Opponents argued that the definition of viable is too vague, leaving room for a doctor to perform late-term abortions.

State Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who sponsored that measure, said last year he believed Richardson’s bill would undo the codification of a woman’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — which reports it represents more than 57,000 OB-GYNs — states on its website a human fetus “does not have the capacity to experience pain until after viability. Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at least 24 weeks of gestation.

“Because it lacks these connections and structures, the fetus does not even have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least 24 weeks of gestation.”

According to Planned Parenthood about 0.5 percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal