Fact Check | Rep. Miller-Meeks claims Democrats’ bill would allow abortion up until birth

Republicans, including Mariannette Miller-Meeks, say Democratic bill would allow abortions up to birth. Yes, but only if the mother’s health is at risk.

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Nina Baker and Lyle Muller

If your time is short:

  • Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly oppose Democratic efforts to pass a law guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion. 
  • Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, told her constituents in a mid-July newsletter about speaking during House debate in opposition to the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022.
  • That act, which passed the House virtually along party lines, allows for abortions until a fetus has a chance to live outside the mother’s body but also after viability if a patient’s health is in danger.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, state and national lawmakers have scrambled to introduce legislation that either restricts or secures access to abortion. Some Iowa Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, stand firmly against the procedure. 

In a July 17 newsletter that addressed several topics, Miller-Meeks wrote:

“I also spoke this week against the radical left’s abortion bill that would permit abortion up until delivery. This is only allowed in several countries, including China and North Korea. The power to regulate abortion should be left to the voters and state legislators.”

PolitiFact has previously looked at international comparisons for abortion laws, and the picture is complicated.

Here, we’ll focus instead on whether or not the abortion bill that was passed by the U.S. House — and sent to the Senate, where it is considered unlikely to secure the required 60 votes would allow abortion through delivery.

The bill, H.R. 8296, titled “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022” and proposed by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., says states would not be able to keep health care providers from offering abortions prior to fetal viability, which generally is around 24 weeks into pregnancy. It adds that states could restrict health care providers from providing abortions after fetal viability, but only “when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.” 

The House approved the bill 219-210. Miller-Meeks joined all of her fellow Republicans and one Democrat — Rep. Henry Cueller of Texas — voting against the bill.  

Miller-Meeks spoke during a July 15 House debate on the bill, in which several other Republicans — though not Miller-Meeks — called the bill an “abortion on demand until birth act.” 

Miller-Meeks said legalizing abortion should be left up to states “while recognizing the sanctity of life. This concept is so novel and repugnant to the Democrats that they would put forward a radical and extreme abortion bill that would permit abortion even up until birth for any reason.” 

A reading of the bill shows that H.R. 8296 permits abortion up until delivery, but only if it is deemed necessary to protect the life of the patient. It does not explicitly require states to keep the procedure legal in all cases past the point of fetal viability. 

Republican officeholders previously have said, in slightly different phrasings, that Democrats want to allow abortions until the moment of birth, but PolitiFact has often found these to be misleading. In this instance, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 would allow abortions only if medical professionals believe in good faith that delaying to do so would produce a risk of life or health for their patient.

Miller-Meeks’ newsletter comment has a point that the bill “would permit abortion up until delivery.” However, she glosses over a crucial qualifier: The bill only would allow such abortions under extreme circumstances, in which medical professionals determine that the mother’s life or health is at risk.

It’s worth noting that late-term abortions — the kind that would need to be approved under these circumstances — are rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its latest count from November 2021 that of the 629,898 abortions performed in 2019, almost 93% of them were at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy. About 6% were performed between 14 and 20 weeks, and fewer than 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy. 

The figures are based on reports by health agencies throughout the U.S., although California, Maryland, and New Hampshire did not report. 

Miller-Meeks’ office did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Our ruling

Mariannette Miller-Meeks said the Democrats’ Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 “would permit abortion up until delivery.” 

The bill, which passed the U.S. House but is considered unlikely to win approval in the Senate, would permit abortion up to delivery, but only in limited cases when medical professionals determine that an abortion is necessary to save the life or the health of the mother. Such situations account for a tiny fraction of all abortions, federal data shows. Ignoring this qualifier is misleading. 

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Congress.gov, H.R.8296 – Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022;” roll call vote

YouTube, “Miller-Meeks: In Congress, I Will Act to Protect the Sanctity of Life,” July 15, 2022

G. H. Breborowicz, “Limits of fetal viability and its enhancement,” Early Pregnancy (Cherry Hill); Jan. 5, 2001 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2019 Surveillance Summaries,” Nov. 26, 2021

U.S. House debate on H.R. 8296, July 15, 2022

PolitiFact, “Anti-abortion group exaggerates how states regulate late-term abortions;” by Tom Kertscher; July 12, 2022

PolitiFact, “Fact-checking Lindsey Graham on the US allowing abortions at 20 weeks;” by Jon Greenberg; May 13, 2022

PolitiFact, “No, this Colorado law does not allow abortions ‘up until the moment of birth’; by Sara Swann; April 7, 2022

Charlotte Lozier Institute web page, article, “Gestational Limits on Abortion in the United States Compared to International Norms,” by Angelina Baglini, Feb. 1, 2014; and About Us page 

KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), “Abortions Later in Pregnancy,” Dec. 5, 2019

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