Following several months of intense controversy, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a measure that would restrict abortions in the United States after the fifth month of pregnancy.
The bill was approved on Wednesday, the second anniversary of the conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering infants born alive during abortion procedures, and of negligence in the death of an abortion patient.
The bill passed by a vote of 242-184. Four Democrats voted in favor of the bill and four Republicans voted against it. The measure now heads to the Senate.
Its passage comes as a recent New York Times article revealed results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found more very premature babies are surviving outside the womb with fewer health problems due to medical advances.
In 2013, the measure passed the House easily, but was never taken up by the Democrat-led Senate. Pro-life lawmakers were anxious to reintroduce the bill at the start of the new Congress in January – now with a Republican-controlled Senate in place that could make passage in that chamber more likely.
The legislation, however, was upended and pulled from the House floor abruptly on the eve of the March for Life later that month, when a group of Republicans – mostly women and moderates – led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), objected to rape and incest reporting requirements that mandated the crimes be reported to law enforcement in order for a late-term abortion to take place.
The version of the bill voted on Wednesday instead requires abortionists to ensure that rape victims receive medical treatment or licensed counseling 48 hours prior to the abortion procedure.
As the House prepared to debate the bill, opponent of the Pain-Capable measure Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said, “How can we put on the floor of the House the H.R. 36 Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act, which is merely a disregard, disrespect of the Constitution and a woman’s right to choice? I look forward to a vigorous debate standing on the side of the Constitution.”
Similarly, Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), said, “In January, women of the Republican Conference were so appalled by H.R. 36, they blocked it from coming to the floor.”
Four months later it’s back. Shameful. The changes Republicans have made to this legislation are mere smoke screens, and it has done nothing to alleviate the burdens placed on women who are already grappling with the hard decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. H.R. 36 poses grave dangers to women and the American people will not be fooled. Women’s health and personal decisions should be between a woman, her family and her doctor, not a male-dominated Congress. Most abortions take place before 21 weeks. So many women who have abortions later in pregnancy do so because of medical complications and other barriers to access. H.R. 36 would harm women in need and increase obstacles to obtaining safe and legal abortions.
Speaking in opposition to the bill and criticizing the House for “priorities” that are “misplaced,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) also said the Pain-Capable measure was “unconstitutional and we know it.”
The words of Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who introduced the bill in January, reflected the controversy over the bill.
“The real question that remains is will those of us privileged to live and breathe in this the land of the free and home of the brave finally come together and protect mothers and their little innocent pain-capable unborn babies from monsters like Kermit Gosnell?” he said.
One supporter of the Pain-Capable bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), observed that recent polls show most Americans, regardless of political party affiliation, agree abortions should be prohibited after 20 weeks, when an unborn child can feel pain.
Foxx noted that even “Cosmopolitan magazine had an article recently about the impact of smoking by pregnant women on their quote ‘unborn babies.’”
“They weren’t blobs of tissue or fetuses, but, quote ‘unborn children,’” she continued. “These unborn children can feel pain, which is why they are provided anesthesia when surgery is performed on them and they can survive outside the womb.”
Reflecting the controversy over the language in the bill, and the difficulty in reaching a consensus, Foxx added, “In order to maintain that consensus, the bill includes provisions allowing abortions in cases of rape or where the life of the mother is in danger. It provides strong protections for minors who have been sexually assaulted, stopping abortionists from ignoring child abuse that enters their facility.”
Describing the Pain-Capable bill as “landmark legislation,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said the measure was needed now more than ever because there are Gosnells all over America.”
Smith criticized those who refer to abortion as women’s “choice,” when, in reality, it is “violence against children.”
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), one of the Republicans who reportedly expressed dissent over the original rape reporting language in the bill, said, “A critical component of this legislation ensures that women receive counseling or medical care for a traumatic event that precipitated her pregnancy prior to obtaining an abortion.”
“We have the responsibility of representing our constituents to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure that women do not face judgment or condemnation, but have positive support, structures and access to health care to help them through their pregnancies,” she added.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), who also reportedly dissented to the bill’s original language, called the legislation “pro-woman” and “pro-child” because it provided for the care of women faced with an unplanned pregnancy as well as the saving of an unborn child who could feel pain and might well survive outside the womb.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also spoke in support of the bill, asserting that “every child is a gift from God.”
In response to the House’s passage of the measure, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told Breitbart News, “We are so proud that the House has passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and moved to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation, where the preborn baby has been scientifically proven to feel pain.”
“There is no excuse for the now pro-life Senate not to bring the bill to the floor for a vote immediately,” Hawkins added. “U.S. Senators must go ‘on the record’ as voting for or against the horrific procedure of abortion at this stage in a woman’s pregnancy, where the preborn baby will feel every effort to end his or her life. It is inexcusable that the United States is one of seven nations that allows abortions after five months.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, noted the importance of the passage of the Pain-Capable bill as the country heads into the 2016 presidential election.
“Politics thrives on moments of clarity,” she said. “This legislation to protect the most innocent among us is an opportunity for clarity heading into the 2016 elections. Protecting pain-capable babies and mothers at risk during a late-term abortion is a winning issue and one that has unified the entire Republican presidential field. Where does Hillary Clinton stand?”
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, and member of the executive committee of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement sent to Breitbart News, “On the anniversary of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s conviction, whose trial opened our eyes to heartbreaking realities in the abortion industry, it is fitting that the U.S. House will vote to ban late-term abortions.”
Dr. Gosnell sits in jail because his reckless incompetence led him to kill premature babies born alive, but at least 140 other late-term abortion doctors continue to legally abort 18,000 babies annually past 20 weeks by industry approved techniques like dismemberment…There is abundant scientific evidence and near universal scientific agreement that babies at this stage are capable of feeling pain. Overwhelming majorities of Americans recognize the humanity and human rights of a premature baby, and are opposed to the violence inherent in late-term abortion. We commend the House of Representatives for prioritizing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and we look forward to Senator Lindsey Graham’s leadership on this bill in the Senate.
The United States is one of only seven nations that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization.