Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee successfully passed a series of legislation to protect children. These bills passed with broad bipartisan support, unceremoniously, and provided the highest protection of the law for some of our most vulnerable members of society. I was pleased to witness the cooperation of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who demonstrated true moral leadership to defend the innocence of children.
However, our society should be at least equally concerned with another more pervasive danger that threatens thousands of children each year. Despite the public outcry against abuse of children once they are born, many members of society turn a blind eye to the violence that children suffer at the hands of abortionists. In fact, current laws allow the disturbing procedure of late-term abortion to kill tens of thousands of children annually. Our laws permit it, and our culture perpetuates it.
Abortion is a divisive issue, one that has plagued our nation since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. But as we look at the growing body of scientific research, we can understand the facts about abortion that will guide us to public policy that is compassionate and respectful of human dignity.
Science has proven that at 20 weeks, the baby is more than just tissue or a clump of cells. Scientific studies into the neurological development of babies have demonstrated that by the second trimester, an unborn child has developed organs and an advanced brain structure. These babies hear music, respond to human voices, and, most importantly, they can feel pain.
Scientific developments have also revealed that a 20-week old unborn baby has a chance to survive outside its mother’s womb. Many children born prematurely after the 20-week threshold live full and productive lives without complications from their premature birth. And a majority of Americans oppose aborting children who stand a chance to live on their own. In fact, many states have passed statutes indicating that abortion should be limited to before the period of viability.
All of us—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—can agree that the government has a vested interest in protecting the rights of children, and that should include unborn children after 20 weeks. Once a child is capable of responding to stimuli or feeling pain, there is no question that that child is a human being, deserving of dignity and the right to life. We cannot go against reason and against nature to claim that unborn children do not exist or that their rights do not matter.
To protect these innocent children and give them a chance at life, I am proud to cosponsor H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill restricts abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and it establishes criminal penalties for those who perform or attempt abortions against unborn children after 20 weeks.
H.R. 36 reflects the values of a majority of Americans and restores our commitment to promoting life. Recent polls show that large majorities support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
In addition, this bill will rescue thousands of innocent children from a horrific and painful death. According to the most recent available data from the CDC and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), restrictions on late-term abortions would save thousands of lives a year.
Defending helpless unborn children from a procedure that damages women’s bodies, dismembers viable babies, and causes them excruciating pain leaves little room for middle ground. We should all agree that children who are viable and who can feel pain deserve to be protected across all 50 states.
As Dr. Maureen Condic of the University of Utah School of Medicine stated in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, “Imposing pain on any pain-capable living creature is cruelty. And ignoring the pain experienced by another human individual for any reason is barbaric. We don’t need to know if a human fetus is self-reflexive or even self-aware to afford it the same consideration we currently afford other pain-capable species. We simply have to decide whether we will choose to ignore the pain of the fetus or not.”
The scientific data provide unambiguous evidence that unborn children are living, feeling human beings. There should be nothing controversial about protecting children from physical danger. For the sake of our most vulnerable, and for the conscience of our nation, we must pass H.R. 36.
LifeNews Note: Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.