Tuesday, August 16

NJ Congressman Smith said he would seek to ban abortions after 15 weeks if GOP wins the House

Rep. Chris Smith, one of the leading abortion opponents in Congress, said Friday that if a Republican majority takes over the House after the mid-term elections, it would seek to ban abortions after 15 weeks. Smith’s comments came in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court ruling on Friday overturning Roe v. Wade.

The proposal, which would include exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, would go even further than the 20-week ban that House Republicans passed in 2017, the last time they controlled the chamber. Despite then-President Donald Trump’s support, the measure died in the Senate.

“We’re working on something along those lines,” Smith. R-4th Dist. told reporters at the Capitol Friday after the Supreme Court reversed the 49-year-old decision guaranteeing abortion rights.

Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and the leading sponsor of what is known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, acknowledged that the legislation wasn’t going to become law any time soon.

“We don’t have, at this point, the ability to overcome a veto or a filibuster,” Smith said. “So the states hopefully will enact laws to protect babies. Some come into force right away, as you know.”

He welcomed the court decision, something he had been fighting for during the last half-century.

“I believed that science was on our side,” Smith said. “In the early days, there was a thought that if we didn’t reverse this quickly, the American public would be so wedded to the right to abortion, so-called. but that hasn’t happened.”

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Only 13% of Americans favored a ban on abortion, according to a May Gallup poll. That’s less than half as many as the 35% who favored abortion without restrictions. Half of Americans backed the right to abortion with certain limits.

At the same time, Smith expressed concern that Democrats would continue to push legislation that would guarantee abortion rights. The House passed that bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, 218-211 in September, with all 10 New Jersey Democrats voting yes and both Republicans voting no. The measure then was blocked in February of this year by a Republican-led filibuster in the Senate.

“We’ve got to be thinking they’re going to keep pushing abortion until birth,” Smith said. “If they get that, all the state laws will be nullified. We’re at a crossroads. We have to argue and persuade like we’ve never argued or persuaded before.”

However, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care research group, said abortions occurring just before or after birth “do not occur, nor are they legal.”

In fact, the foundation said, procedures done after 21 weeks account for just 1% of all abortions in the US, and are performed primarily if the life of the mother is at stake, if the fetus will die shortly before or after birth, or if barriers prevent a woman from getting medical help earlier.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist., called on the Senate Democratic majority to “do whatever it takes to pass” the abortion rights legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s action.

“We must never lose our urgency to erase this decision and reverse this dark day in America,” he said.

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The longest serving House member in New Jersey history, Smith recently survived a primary in the redrawn 4th District after Trump called for his ouster for supporting President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.

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Jonathan D Salant may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JDSalant.

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