The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on legislation that would stop the policy of unlimited abortions for any reason throughout the entirety of pregnancy in the nation’s capital.
The legislation, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803), is strongly backed by the National Right to Life Committee and leading pro-life organizations. NRLC supports the bill, saying it would end the current legal policy allowing abortion, for any reason, until the moment of birth in the nation’s capital.
The Council of the District of Columbia, employing authority delegated by Congress, repealed the entire D.C. abortion law. Thus, in the nation’s capital, abortion is currently legal for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.
“This roll call will be a landmark – the House has never before voted on the question of whether to endorse legal abortion for any reason until birth,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.
He told LifeNews, “Under the Constitution, members of Congress and the President are ultimately accountable for the current abortion-until-birth policy. Any lawmaker who votes against this bill is voting to ratify the extreme policy currently in effect in the nation’s capital, where abortion is perfectly legal for any reason until the moment of birth.”
“If we can achieve a big majority on this groundbreaking initial vote, it will lay the foundation to achieve legal protection for pain-capable unborn babies in the not-distant future,” Johnson said.
The bill, sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week and is being brought to the House floor on a fast-track procedure. In the bill, Congress adopts findings that by 20 weeks after fertilization (if not earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain. (This is equivalent to 22 weeks in the alternate “LMP” or “weeks of pregnancy” dating system used by ob-gyns and abortion providers.) The bill prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother. Johnson says seven states have already enacted very similar legislation; no court orders have blocked enforcement of any of those laws.
The vote follows a new poll released by the National Right to Life Committee and commissioned by the Polling Company. The poll found 63% of all respondents, and 70% of women respondents, favor banning abortion after the point where the unborn child can feel pain. Another 58% of all respondents, and 62% of women respondents, would be more likely to vote for a Member of Congress who votes to ban abortion after 22 weeks gestation in the District of Columbia.
The bill is similar to a first-in-the-nation law the state of Nebraska passed that successfully drove late-term abortion practitioner LeRoy Carhart to move most of his abortion business to Maryland and bans abortions at 22 weeks gestation (20 weeks post-conception) due to the scientific evidence that not only do unborn children feel pain, they feel it more acutely because pain “dampeners” do not fully develop until 40 weeks gestation, and later.
According to officials with National Right to Life, at least two abortion providers currently are advertising that they provide abortions in the District past the point that the bill would establish protection – one to 24 weeks after fertilization, and the other during the third trimester, at least to seven and one-half months, and perhaps later.
“In the nation’s capital, abortion is now legal, for any reason, until the moment of birth,” said Johnson. “The District Council, employing authority delegated by Congress, repealed the entire abortion law. Members of Congress, and the President, are ultimately accountable for this extreme policy, because the Constitution says that Congress shall “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District . . .’ A vote against this bill amounts to a vote to ratify the current policy of legal abortion, for any reason, until the moment of birth.”
During a committee hearing earlier this year, the committee heard compelling scientific evidence that demonstrates that by 20 weeks (if not earlier), the unborn child experiences excruciating pain when being dismembered by brute force in a “D&E” abortion.
Reluctant to support even modest limits on abortion, NARAL and the National Abortion Federation have urged their members to contact Congress to urge opposition to the bill.
The science behind the concept of fetal pain is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it.
He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”
He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen were the top researchers to point to fetal pain decades ago. Collins, before his death, was Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois and author of Principles of Anesthesiology, one of the leading medical texts on the control of pain.
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“The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb,” they wrote.
“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.
With Zielinski and his colleagues the first to provide the scientific basis for the concept of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has provided further research to substantiate their work.
“The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies,” explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.