Members of a U.S. House committee will cast a vote on a congressional bill that would ban abortions nationwide at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, chaired by bill author Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, will hold a markup on H.R. 1797 on Tuesday. After lawmakers debate the bill, a vote is expected.
Franks has announced he will amend his bill, the “D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 1797) to apply nationwide. With this change, the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” will be a national prohibition on abortions of unborn children who can feel pain during the abortion process.
Congressman Franks believes the national abortion ban is timely in light of the conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell and news reports of potentially similar gruesome late abortion practitioners around the country.
“I know when the subject is related in any way to abortion, the doors of reason and human compassion in our minds and hearts often close, and the humanity of the unborn can no longer be seen. But I pray we can at least come together to agree that we can and should draw the line at the point that these innocent babies can feel the excruciating pain of these brutal procedures,” he said.
Franks added: “The case of Kermit Gosnell shocked the sensibilities of millions of Americans. However, the crushing fact is that abortions on babies just like the ones killed by Kermit Gosnell have been happening hundreds of times per day, every single day, for the past 40 years. Indeed, let us not forget that, had Kermit Gosnell dismembered these babies before they had traveled down the birth canal only moments earlier, he would have, in many places nationwide, been performing an entirely legal procedure. If America truly understands that horrifying reality, hearts and laws will change.”
“To this end, I have re-introduced the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act, which will now be amended to broaden its coverage so that its provisions will apply nationwide,” he said. “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. This is not who we are.”
During a hearing last week, former abortion practitioner Dr. Anthony Levatino made national news for his testimony about his abortion practice and his call for the abortion ban to be enacted.
The move to expand the bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide has the strong support of the National Right to Life Committee.
“National Right to Life strongly concurs in Congressman Franks’ decision that the time is ripe to seek protection for pain-capable unborn children nationwide,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “Because of publicity surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell and subsequent revelations about other abortionists, many Americans are becoming aware for the first time that abortions are frequently performed late in pregnancy on babies who are capable of being born alive, and on babies who will experience great pain while being killed.”
Johnson says that in a nationwide poll of 1,003 registered voters in March, The Polling Company found that 64% would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks — when an unborn baby
Johnson added that the federal bill contains legislative findings and operative language very similar to bills already enacted in nine states, beginning in 2010, based on model legislation prepared by NRLC. 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.
During the 2011-12 Congress, Mr. Franks’ bill garnered 222 co-sponsors in the 435-member House, and received the support of a majority of House members on July 31, 2012 (roll call no. 539).
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.
Further documentation and links to the scientific studies can be found at: www.doctorsonfetalpain.com.