The U.S. House of Representatives has approved major legislation which would protect the lives of preborn children in America from late-term abortions, and Missouri Congresswomen played a leading role in the
The proposal, described as the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks "post-fertilization." The only exceptions would be when the life of the mother is threatened, severe health risks to the mother would occur, or in instances of rape or incest. The measure was endorsed by the U.S. House in a vote of 228-196. It is the most significant piece of pro-life legislation taken up by Congress in decades.
The legislation is premised on the belief that the neurological system of an unborn child is developed enough by twenty weeks of pregnancy that the child experiences intense pain during an abortion. It was introduced by Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee managed the bill on the House floor.
Missouri is blessed to now have two women serving as Congressional representatives who are passionate advocates of the right to life. Both of them made sure their voices were prominent in the public discussion surrounding the bill.
"We can no longer turn a blind eye to violence against unborn children, especially when some of these late-term abortions have led to the deaths of innocent women from botched abortions," says Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler
of Harrisonville. "Late-term abortions are agonizingly painful. If we won't protect babies at the point when an unborn child is known to feel excruciating pain, when will we?"
"The recent Gosnell murder case in Pennsylvania shocked Americans throughout the country," Hartzler continued. "It is imperative that action be taken to protect the most vulnerable among us from the pain they endure during these horrendous abortions."
Congresswoman Ann Wagner of St. Louis also spoke forcefully in support of the bill. "As science and technology continue to advance, we are changing hearts and minds. Everyone talks about the right to choose, but no one discusses the implications of that choice."
"It is not only the pain of the child we must consider, but also the pain of the mother," Wagner explained. "I am for the life of the baby, and also for the life of the mother. I am for life at all stages. I will continue to work for a day when abortion is not only illegal, but unthinkable."
Congressmen Sam Graves, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Jason Smith joined Hartzler and Wagner in voting for the bill. Congressmen William (Lacy) Clay and Emmanuel Cleaver voted to maintain the right to kill preborn children after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Unborn Child Protection Act gained momentum for passage by the House of Representatives in the wake of the grisly murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell
. Federal prosecutors described Gosnell's ghastly abortion clinic as a "house of horrors." Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in cases where he used scissors to sever the spinal cords of infants he had delivered alive.
"Like Gosnell, abortionists all over America decapitate, dismember, and chemically poison babies to death each and every day," said Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, chairman of the Pro-Life Caucus in the House. "Americans are connecting the dots and asking whether what Gosnell did is really any different than what other abortionists do."
"A D&E abortion--the most common method after 14 weeks--is a gruesome, pain-filled act that literally rips and tears to pieces the body parts of a child," Smith recounted. "[This bill] is a modest but necessary attempt to at least protect babies who are 20 weeks old from having to suffer and die from abortion." Life Site News
estimates that the legislation, if enacted into law, would affect 300 abortionists who perform abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization.
Unfortunately, prospects for passage of the bill in the U.S. Senate are nearly nonexistent. Even if the Senate were to give its approval to the measure, President Barack Obama
has promised to veto the measure.
This is no surprise, since President Obama's abominable pro-abortion record includes opposition to legislation to protect children born alive during an abortion.
The science surrounding the subject of fetal pain is one of considerable disagreement. Leading medical associations dispute the claim that a child can experience pain as early as twenty weeks. However, reputable researchers have offered persuasive conclusions that such pain is not only possible, but likely.
As reported by LifeNews
, Dr. Stephen Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, has been at the leading edge of fetal pain research. Zielinski has collaborated with leading anesthesiogists to write
several medical papers on the subject.
"The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child's development in the womb," the group writes. "[These] neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body."
Dr. Colleen Malloy, a professor in the Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University, believes the issue deserves little debate. "When you speak of [preborn] infants at 22 weeks [of pregnancy], we no
longer have to rely solely on inferences or ultrasound imagery. Such premature patients are kicking, moving, reacting, and developing right before our eyes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit."
"The difference between fetal and nonfetal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs," Malloy adds. "The receiver's experience of 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."
The ban on abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy is a direct challenge to U.S. Supreme Court decisions which have provided a virtual right to abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey
, the Supreme Court ruled that states may not enact any restrictions on
access to abortion prior to viability, which does not occur in most cases until 23-24 weeks of gestation.
Whether the Supreme Court is ready to reconsider its Casey
decision and its underlying decision of Roe v. Wade
is a matter of considerable speculation in pro-life circles. With the departure of Sandra Day O'Connor from the court (who authored the Casey decision), Justice Anthony Kennedy
has become the swing vote on the court on this and many other issues.
Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion in the Supreme Court's 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart
decision, which upheld a Congressional ban on partial-birth abortion. However, Kennedy made clear in his ruling that the basis for his decision was that the law banned a particular procedure of late-term abortion, as opposed to a ban on all forms of post-viability abortions.
There has been some debate within the pro-life community as to the wisdom of the pain-focused threshold for abortion regulation. Some fear that a Supreme Court decision upholding such a law would enshrine a new legal principle that abortions where the child does not experience pain are legitimate and of no legal or societal concern.
Nonetheless, the mere fact that the full House of Representatives debated and approved this measure is a victorious moment for the pro-life movement. Like the partial-birth abortion issue, this debate broke through the customary media coverup of this subject, and resulted in greater knowledge and awareness by the
general public of the reality of mid to late-term abortions.
We continue to pray that the cruel and callous slaughter of unborn children in our nation will someday become a matter of national shame and repentance. We yearn for the day when the prayers and persistence of pro-life citizens will be rewarded with an enlightened national consciousness of the sanctity of preborn human life. The political and social debate on fetal pain brings us one step closer to that day.