A group of pro-life advocates went to the halls of Congress today to ask members of the House of Representatives to hurry their work on repairing a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The measure has the strong support of Speaker John Boehner and pro-life groups but more than a dozen members of the use sabotaged the bill back in January when Boehner attempted to bring it up for a vote.
Republican leaders in the House had planned to hold a monumental vote on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation that bans abortions after 20 weeks based in part on the compelling scientific evidence showing unborn babies feel intense pain at that point, if not earlier.
However, several Republicans who have pro-life voting records and voted for the bill the last time around, publicly led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, sabotaged the bill by objecting to the provision allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest. Ellmers and the lawmakers who worked with her, threatened to vote against the bill or kill it by siding with Democrats and sending it back to committee.
Although Ellmers publicly indicated she would vote for the bill, privately she painted another picture. Knowing they may not have the votes to pass the bill, and seeking to avoid a massive onslaught from the media over the issue of rape, GOP leaders pulled the bill to rework the language.
In the approximately two months since the Ellmers debacle, some pro-life advocates are grumbling that the process is taking too long to come up with new language. They protested at the House today and were arrested.
Troy Newman of Operation Rescue was one of the pro-life advocates who joined in today’s protest to urge the House to move on the bill.
“My good friends Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Jill Stanek, and I are going to sit here as long as it takes,” he said in an email to LifeNews.
“Remember, when supposedly “pro-life” Rep. Renee Ellmers stabbed us in the back and sabo-taged this bill earlier this year, we were livid,” he said. “I’m going to continue raising awareness on this critical issue until these politicians fall in line and pass this bill. This sit-in will be a critical first step, but there’s much more to come.”
“Millions of innocent pre-born children have been saved in the ten states that already have this law on the books,” he said. “Now, we have the chance to pass it at the federal level and save millions more.”
After the sabotage by Ellmers and other members of Congress, pro-life groups are working with pro-life lawmakers and Boehner’s office to draft
new language that will mollify the concerns of Ellmers and other lawmakers, thus achieving a majority vote, while not including language that will water down the abortion ban, are still working on getting airtight language.
According to multiple pro-life sources LifeNews has spoken with, new language is still in the works and those responsible for crafting a second version of the bill are taking their time to ensure it’s done right and another blowup from Ellmers or other lawmakers is avoided. There is no purposeful delay in bringing the bill back to the floor.
Boehner tells LifeNews that the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is very important to him and he and Republican leaders are committed to bringing it back to the floor for a vote.
“I’m proud to lead a pro-life bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Boehner said.
“The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is the most significant pro-life legislation to come before Congress since enactment of the ban on partial-birth abortions, and it remains an important priority for our majority. We have a moral obligation to defend the defenseless, and we will continue to fight to ensure our nation’s laws respect the sanctity of unborn human life,” the Speaker added.
Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee, which developed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and whose state version is now law in several states, is also equally committed to ensuring the pro-life bill makes it way back to the House floor for a vote. NRLC executive director David O’Steen told LifeNews he is confident in Boehner and House Republican leaders and their ability to revise the language so it can return to the floor for a vote.
“The Republican leadership of the House is very pro-life and they are committed to bringing the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the floor and passing it,” he said.
“Passage of the bill was delayed by a few members who had previously supported the bill and voted for it and then changed their position. We are working to see that a bill with language that is just as strong and effective as the original bill is passed with a solid majority,” O’Steen added.
The bill is sorely needed as thousands of abortions are done on nearly viable and viable unborn babies every year, according to bill sponsor Congressman Trent Franks.
Franks told LifeNews: “More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America. These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia. Many of them cry and scream as they die, but because it is amniotic fluid going over their vocal cords instead of air, we don’t hear them.”
Polling data and science clearly favor the legislation.
A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.
A November 2014 poll from Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks, including 56 percent of Independents and 46 percent of Democrats.
During the hearing on the last bill, former abortion practitioner Anthony Levatino told members of the committee the gruesome details of his former abortion practice and how he became pro-life following the tragic automobile accident of his child.
Another bombshell dropped during the hearing came from Dr. Maureen Condic, who is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She 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.
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 attorney 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 has provided further research to substantiate their work.
One leading expert in the field of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand at the University of Tennessee, stated in his expert report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”
“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.”
LifeNews Note: Photo credits: Jill Stanek, Operation Rescue, EWTN.