The House of Representatives has twice approved a bill that bans abortions from after 20-weeks of pregnancy up to the day of birth. But Democratic Leader Harry Reid refuses to allow a vote in the Senate.
Today, in a letter led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), 33 senators urged Reid to allow a floor vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.1670), sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The bill would ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks, or after five months of pregnancy, based on the child’s ability to feel pain.
“It is time that Congress acts to bring the United States out of the fringe when it comes to late term abortions,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). “I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would bring us closer to international norms and the views of the American people.”
“I’m pleased to join so many of my Senate colleagues and the vast majority of women nationwide in calling on the Majority Leader to hold a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “It is time America join the ranks of most other civilized countries by protecting unborn children at least at the point at which they are capable of feeling pain. The House already approved this humane measure in a bipartisan vote last summer. There’s no reason our constituents should be kept from having their voices heard on this issue in the Senate as well.”
“I find it troubling that the United States is standing with countries such as China and North Korea in allowing elective abortions past 20 weeks,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), sponsor of S.1670. “With an impressive 40 co-sponsors and overwhelming support by the public in poll after poll, it is time that Majority Leader Reid allow a vote on a compassionate 20-week limit.”
So far, 13 states have enacted 20-week abortion limits based on the unborn child’s ability to feel pain. The U.S. House passed companion legislation in June 2013 by a vote of 228-196.
Recent national polling by Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News all found that a plurality or majority of Americans support limiting abortion after 20 weeks of gestation and that women support the measure in higher proportions than men.
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. 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 Senators also urged their colleagues to review a groundbreaking new report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education & research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, that found the U.S. is one of just seven countries out of 199 examined that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.
The bill relies on the science of fetal pain to establish a Constitutional reason for Congress to ban abortions late in pregnancy. 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.
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“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.
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2012 said, “[w]hen we speak of infants at 22 weeks LMP [Note: this is 20 weeks post fertilization], for example, we no longer have to rely solely on inferences or ultrasound imagery, because such premature patients are kicking, moving, reacting, and developing right before our eyes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”
“In today’s medical arena, we resuscitate patients at this age and are able to witness their ex-utero growth and development. Medical advancement and technology have enabled us to improve our ability to care for these infants…In fact, standard of care for neonatal intensive care units requires attention to and treatment of neonatal pain,” Dr. Malloy testified. She continued, “[t]hus, 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, who is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, has testified that the unborn child is capable of reacting to pain as early as 8-10 weeks. This is when most abortions in America take place.