The recent Gosnell trial exposed many Americans to the ugly reality of abortion, which is often hidden behind language such as “women’s rights,” “choice” and “reproductive health.” Not surprisingly, the nation reacted with outrage and horror to the procedures performed in Gosnell’s clinic. As the images of babies with snipped necks and body parts stored in freezers continue to haunt the American public, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has proposed a bill that would eliminate late term abortions (after 20 weeks gestation) nationwide.
Last year, Franks introduced the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would make it illegal in Washington, D.C., to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy (around the end of the fifth month). According to Franks, this bill attempts to “draw the line at the point that these innocent babies can feel the excruciating pain of these brutal procedures.” In fact, there is scientific evidence proving that unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation, if not before.
The bill gathered a majority vote in the House in 2012, but needed a two-thirds majority to pass because it was introduced under a procedural measure. Franks reintroduced the bill in April, but expanded its protection of the unborn nationwide. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice – chaired by Franks — will hold a hearing on the legislation May 23. Currently the bill has 120 co-sponsors.
“Knowingly subjecting our innocent unborn children to dismemberment in the womb, particularly when they have developed to the point that they can feel excruciating pain every terrible moment leading up to their undeserved deaths, belies everything America was called to be,” said Franks.
This bill is a step in the right direction for our nation, though it falls short of the goal of eliminating all abortions. As we have seen over these past forty years, however, eliminating the horror of abortion from our nation is not going to happen all at once, but one step at a time.
The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reports that late term abortions account for less than 2% of all abortions performed in the U.S., and so at a glance, it doesn’t seem as if passing this bill will make much of a difference in the long run. Indeed, the majority of abortions in the nation will be unaffected by this bill, which begs the question: as Catholics, can we support this bill, since it allows for abortion to continue?
According to Pope John Paul II, the answer is yes. In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II affirms that Catholics can support bills that limits evil, even if they do not abolish it all together: “[T]his does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects” (EV, 73). Franks’ bill will certainly limit the evil of the unjust legality of abortion in America.
We want to ban every abortion – regardless of the point in pregnancy at which it might occur, how the child was conceived, or any supposed risks of defects. No innocent human being may be destroyed due to our fears or desires. Unfortunately, our country is not yet at the point where her lawmakers can approve a bill that would ban all abortion. However, this does not mean we should give up hope. It is morally justifiable to take steps to work up to that point, although such imperfect legislation must never legitimize any abortion for any reason. Though it will not wipe out abortion, it would save lives if enacted.
Consider calling your congressman and asking him or her to support this important legislation.
If Americans can come to see that late term abortion is murder, they will be that much closer to seeing that all abortion is murder. Indeed, when asked about state laws that have banned abortion after 20 weeks, late term abortion doctor Willie Parker agreed that “they [the state laws] create this impression that abortion providers are callous and allow people to conflate murder and abortion. People feel morally justified to say ‘this is wrong’ because they’re led to think it’s close to murder. I think that jeopardizes us [abortion providers], by conflating abortion with an issue that would cause moral outrage.” This acknowledgement is dangerous for the abortion industry and adds weight to the argument that with Franks’ bill, we are headed in the right direction.
Though it is extremely unlikely that this bill would pass the Senate and be signed into law by the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, if it were to become law, it would good, but not a reason for pro-lifers to relent. Drawing the line at 20 weeks is no more a solution to the problem of abortion than it is to drawing the line at birth. The key to overcoming the culture of death in which we live will be to acknowledge human life and dignity from the moment of conception. Franks’ bill is one of many steps that will help to rid our country of this evil called abortion.
LifeNews Note: Molly Loesel is a communications intern at Human Life International. She is a junior at Benedictine College, a Catholic college founded on the Benedictine tradition, in Atchison, Kansas. Molly is studying Philosophy with minors in Communications and Theology. Reprinted with permission from HLI’s WorldWatch blog.