Congressman Files Bill to Ban Abortions Based on Fetal Pain Science

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 26, 2013   |   1:02PM   |   Washington, DC

Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, has introduced a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain.

Frank is the sponsor of the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would ban abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks gestation, based on scientific research that shows unborn children feel pain past that point in development. Currently in the District, abortion is permitted for any reason until the moment of birth.

“The graphic accounts from abortionist doctor Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial remind us that abortion is a brutal and torturous enterprise. This trial brings to light the gruesome nature of what happens in abortion clinics all across the country, including our nation’s Capital where abortions are legal up to the moment of birth,” he told LifeNews.

“Today, I, along with 94 co-sponsors, introduced the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill to restrict abortions in the District of Columbia beyond the 20th week of development. The medical community has reached a clear consensus that unborn children at this stage, and perhaps even in earlier stages, can feel pain,” he said.

Franks added: “I am astonished that opponents of my bill argue that it usurps local authority. To the contrary, it is precisely because the Constitution grants “exclusive” authority to Congress to create “Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” for D.C. that I felt compelled to introduce this bill. If Congress fails to act, the District could become a safe haven for late-term abortionists who are stripped of their licenses in the states for negligence, and there is some evidence that this has already happened. Several states, including my home state of Arizona, have already signed similar legislation into law.”

He concluded: “The District of Columbia has always had an abysmal record where the protection of unborn children is concerned. Now is the time for my colleagues to step up to our Constitutional responsibility and not sit idly by while this grotesque and brutal procedure, which rips the live pain capable babies apart limb by limb, continues in the national Capital of the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The National Right to Life Committee immediate endorsed the legislation and told LifeNews in a statement:

This vital legislation contains legislative findings and operative language very similar to bills already enacted in nine states, beginning in 2010. Like those state laws, Mr. Franks’ legislation contains findings of fact regarding the medical evidence that unborn children experience pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization (which is 22 weeks in the “LMP” system, or about the start of the sixth month), and prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother.

Some of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks, is available on the NRLC website at

Additional state legislatures may take up similar legislation during the months ahead. However, there is one substantial jurisdiction over which the U.S. Constitution places legislative responsibility solely on the shoulders of the Congress: The District of Columbia. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution dictates unequivocally that Congress shall “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District . . .”

Currently, in our nation’s capital, unborn children may legally be killed at any point up to birth, for any reason. Abortions are advertised, and performed, in the sixth month and later. This means that unborn children who are capable of experiencing excruciating pain are killed every day – most often, by a method in which arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, as the abortionist guides his forceps using an ultrasound image. A medical illustration of this common method (“D&E”) is posted here:

Under the Constitution, only the Congress – and, if he would, the President – have the responsibility for putting an end to these brutal practices. During the 112th Congress, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act had 222 co-sponsors, and garnered the support of a majority of House members on a Suspension Calendar vote on July 31, 2012 (roll call no. 539).



The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s group, also endorsed the bill:

“In recent weeks Americans have recoiled in horror at the details revealed at the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose cold-blooded murder caused unspeakable pain for born and unborn babies,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

She told LifeNews: “It is an outrage that in the shadow of the Capitol, children can legally have their lives ended through methods equally brutal to those employed by Gosnell. Even more outrageous is that similar brutality is touted as a ‘right’ by President Obama and the abortion lobby including Planned Parenthood. Last week, Planned Parenthood admitted to receiving multiple complaints about conditions at Gosnell’s ‘house of horrors’ clinic, yet chose not to exercise its position as the abortion industry leader to help put an end to the butchering of women and children.  Their abortion extremism flies in the face of mainstream Americans, 63 percent (70 percent of women) of whom support protecting unborn children past the point at which they feel pain.”

“Congress must act immediately to protect children from the Gosnells of our nation. We praise Rep. Franks for his courage, and urge all Members of Congress to vote in favor of protecting unborn children from the horrific pain of abortion,” she said.

Previously, SBA List grassroots activists sent more than 26,760 messages to Congress encouraging their representatives to support this legislation. Today’s re-introduced bill has 92 original co-sponsors.

A National Right to Life Committee poll found that 63 percent of Americans, and 70 percent of women, support a ban on post-fetal pain abortion in Washington, D.C. The same poll also found that American women, by an overwhelming majority of 62-27 percent, would be more likely to vote for lawmakers who support this 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.

“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.