Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from the 2nd District, will take his first big vote this week, one that will tell us a lot about what kind of congressman he will be.

A bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy is expected to come up for a vote in the House. Poliquin, an opponent of abortion rights who spoke at the “Hands Around the Capitol” demonstration last weekend, would appear to be a safe vote for the bill’s supporters. But he told a reporter at the rally that he has not yet decided on how he would vote and planned to take a careful look at the bill’s language first.

We hope Poliquin meant it when he said he had an open mind. The 20-week ban would put politicians firmly between doctors and their patients, who could include victims of rape and incest and women carrying fetuses with life-threatening birth defects, enshrining into law a Washington-knows-best attitude that Poliquin usually says he abhors

Poliquin should take a good look at the bill and vote “no.”

Proponents of the bill say it is necessary because a fetus can feel pain at least by 20 weeks after the fertilization of an egg, which is about halfway through a typical pregnancy. That should override any other concerns, they argue, but that should not be enough.

Scientists disagree over when a fetus can experience pain. More importantly, only about 1 percent of abortions are performed after 20 weeks, which is also about when prenatal testing can identify major birth defects like anencephaly (in which a baby is born without parts of his brain), major heart defects, missing organs and other serious complications. Some of those babies can be born and survive infancy, but others have little chance. There are also situations in which continuing the pregnancy would present a risk to a mother’s life and health.

These are the excruciating questions for a family, and these are the families this bill would rob of a full range of medical options.

Supporters claim that their bill provides an exception for cases of rape or incest, but that’s not the whole truth. The exception would be valid only in cases in which the sexual assault was reported before a patient presented for an abortion. Rape is a chronically unreported crime, and victims can have complicated relationships with their perpetrators that make coming forward dangerous. Punishing a victim for not trusting the judicial system to protect her compounds the crime.

In Washington, Poliquin can tell his colleagues about the success Maine has had in reducing the number of pregnancies that are terminated with abortions. Despite having some of the most permissive laws in the country, the abortion rate in Maine has dropped steadily since the 1990s, and has always been far below the national rate.

Maine has shown that you can reduce abortion rates without interfering in women’s health care decisions. Poliquin should consider that when he prepares to vote this week.