U.S. House Bans Abortion After 20 Weeks
Thursday, June 20, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed historic legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy following exposure of horrific late term abortion practices which included the killing of infants who survived abortion. According to bill sponsor Rep. Trent Franks, passage of the bill marks "the first time in either chamber in the United States Congress that we've given affirmative protection to unborn children in the history of the United States."

H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act relies on research demonstrating that the unborn child can experience pain by at least 20 weeks gestation. During hearings on the legislation, the science of fetal pain was examined. The first evidence of fetal pain was published in 1980 and has expanded ever since.

In a 2012 hearing, Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University testified that the care of infants born prematurely, as early as 20 weeks gestation, includes the treatment of pain: "the difference between fetal and neonatal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs. The receiver's experience of the pain is the same. I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to horrific procedures such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection." Dr. Maureen Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology, testified that the unborn child can react to pain as early as 8-10 weeks.

During two separate House floor debates on the bill, pro-life Members gave impassioned pleas to protect children in the womb from the painful and violent methods of abortion, pointing out that anesthesia is used during surgeries on children in the womb who are at the same age as preborn children who are killed by brutal late term abortion methods and who are not given any medication to prevent them from experiencing horrific pain.

Congressman Chris Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, spoke of the medical evidence: "Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions. Ultrasound technology shows unborn babies at 20 weeks post-fertilization and earlier react physically to outside stimuli such as sound, light and touch. Surgeons routinely administer anesthesia to unborn children in the womb before performing lifesaving surgeries, and this has been associated with a decrease in the baby's stress hormone levels during the medical procedure."

Pro-life congresswomen spoke passionately of the need to protect children from pain and presented the findings ofrecent polls that show 64% of the public would support a law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks if it was established that the child is capable of feeling pain at this time and if the life of the mother was not in danger. 80% would support such a ban in the third trimester.

Congresswomen Marsha Blackburn managed final passage of the bill and spoke about changing American attitudes about late-term abortion urging Members to support the legislation stating, "A vote in favor is a vote for human decency and public health safety."

Congresswoman Wagner argued, "As science and technology continue to advance, we are changing hearts and mind. It is not only the pain of the child we must consider, but also the pain of the mother. Everyone talks about the right to choose, but no one discusses the implications of that choice. I am for life at all stages. I am for the life of the baby, and I am also for the life of the mother. I will continue to work for a day when abortion is not only illegal, but absolutely unthinkable."

You tube videos of the speeches by pro-life Members can be viewed on this specially created website.

The legislation allows exceptions for rape and incest and if enacted would reverse the current status of the US as one of the most extreme pro-abortion countries in the world. Of the 56 countries that allow abortion on demand, most have time limits in place restricting unlimited access to abortion to anywhere from 8 to 18 weeks gestation. Yet, according to legal research by Americans United for Life, "the United States is the most lenient in its treatment of abortion, placing it in the company of China, North Korea, and Canada, the only countries in the world that permit abortion for any reason after viability." 

H.R. 1797 passed by a vote of 228-196 along party lines with six Democrats supporting the bill and 6 Republicans against it, including two Members from Georgia who opposed the addition of exceptions for rape and incest. All major pro-life organizations supported the legislation with National Right to Life adding the vote to its scorecard of Members. Pro-life leaders are now calling on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.   

Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the SBA List urged, "This pro-woman, pro-science, Constitutional bill deserves an immediate vote in the U.S. Senate. It's simple: children capable of experiencing unimaginable pain from abortion must be protected across the country." Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life declared, "Now the members of the U.S. Senate should stand with the women of America protect women and unborn, infant children, from dangerous, later-term procedures."

While a vote in the Senate is doubtful, President Obama was quick to assure pro-abortion activists that he would veto the bill if it were to arrive at this desk.

PNCI would like to recognize the deep pro-life convictions and heart-felt eloquence of Rep. Trent Franks whose pro-life leadership was the focus of a moving article 'Trent Franks, Pro-Life Warrior' During the interview, Franks discusses the motivation for his pro-life leadership in the U.S. Congress, "What motivates me, what makes me feel good, is that when I am lying down in the lonely moments of an old-age home, I want to be able to look back and say, 'I think there are children out there somewhere having a better time in life and laying hold of the miracle of it all because I got to be here.'"

The tribute ends, "Regardless of what the future brings, Franks is determined to do what he can to prevent abortions. He thinks about what his four-year-old twins will say when they are older and become aware of how many have died in abortion. He wants to be able to tell them he did something about it. And he contemplates how history will judge the United States for permitting abortion."

Thank you, Rep. Trent Franks, for all your actions "to do something about it" to save the lives of babies and for your inspiration to legislators around the world who work to advance respect for life through law and policy.