UPDATE: The House of Representatives approved this landmark legislation on Tuesday, June 18, by a 228-196 margin. On the Republican side, 222 voted yes, 6 voted no. On the Democratic side, 6 voted yes, 190 voted no. There were 10 who did not vote. Check how your representative voted here.
Ban abortions after 20 weeks. Nationwide.
That’s what legislation debated in a House subcommittee yesterday would do.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, who is amending his D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act (H.R. 1797) to expand the ban nationwide. (Franks is also chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, which held the hearing.)
Exceptions to the bill are provided for the life of the mother or “substantial and irreversible physical impairment.” The bill specifically prohibits “psychological or emotional conditions” from qualifying as exceptions.
You might be asking: Why 20 weeks?
When deciding the constitutionality of any abortion regulation, the Supreme Court demands a compelling governmental interest.
So, the language of Rep. Franks’ bill spells it out:
“[T]here is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier. It is the purpose of the Congress to assert a compelling governmental interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.”
To back this up, Chairman Franks had former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino testify. He had performed 1,200 abortions, including late-term abortions. He urged Congress to pass this bill.
Watch his powerful testimony:
You can also read testimony from Maureen Condic, Ph.D of the University of Utah School of Medicine, Dept of Nuerobiology and Anatomy (PDF version). And many of you will recognize the name of Jill Stanek, a Registered Nurse who worked at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois (PDF version).
This bill, by focusing on eliminating pain on unborn children, could survive the current constitutional framework on abortion while also having the broad support of the American people. A poll commissioned by National Right to Life Committee and conducted by The Polling Company found that 64% of Americans supported this legislation and only 30% opposed it.
And we as Catholics can support this legislation even though it doesn’t ban all abortions. As Pope John Paul II, wrote in Evangelium Vitae:
“When it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” (#73)
This bill has a good chance of passing in Committee. While last year’s bill dealt only with the nation’s capital, it was approved by the House of Representatives (only to die in the Senate). This legislation is nationwide, so we will need to encourage Members of the House who supported last year’s bill to also support this more comprehensive legislation.
It is extremely unlikely that the Democratic Senate would pass this bill and it’s a certainty that President Obama would veto this bill.
But that doesn’t mean we’re wasting our time. Far from it.
We have the opportunity to educate our Members of Congress and our neighbors about what’s going on at abortion facilities all across our land. And we can tell them how to stop it.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban was passed by Congress in 1995 and 1997. Both times they were vetoed by pro-abortion President Clinton. The bill finally became law in 2003, when it was signed by President George W. Bush. Finally, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the bill was in fact constitutional.
Let’s make sure this legislation doesn’t take 12 years from start to finish. Today we begin the hard but necessary work of educating and mobilizing Americans on behalf of the Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act.