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Defeat of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act a Top Priority, Say Pro-Abortion Leaders

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House Cosponsor List Hits 154

Pro-abortion groups have sounded the alarm about a new pro-life bill introduced recently in Congress at the instigation of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), declaring that its defeat is a priority for the pro-abortion movement because it poses a grave threat to the entire legal structure that maintains legal abortion on demand.

The statements were made by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate who represents the District of Columbia in the U.S. House of Representatives. Norton sponsored a Capitol Hill press conference on February 21 in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), NARAL, and the National Abortion Federation, solely to attack the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The legislation was introduced in the House on January 23, 2012, by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.), as H.R. 3803, and as of March 22 had 154 House cosponsors. (218 constitutes an absolute majority in the 435-member House.) It was introduced in the Senate on February 13 by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), as S. 2103, and as of March 22 had six Senate cosponsors. (See lists below.)

In this legislation, Congress would declare that at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, an unborn child has the capacity to experience pain—and, on that basis, the bill would prohibit abortions within the District of Columbia (except when acute physical problems endanger the life of the mother) from that point on (from about the beginning of the sixth month, in layperson’s terminology).

The Franks-Lee bill is based on an NRLC model bill that has already been enacted in five states—Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Idaho. None of the enacted laws have faced any serious legal challenge to date. Similar legislation is currently advancing in other state legislatures.

In a letter to her fellow House Democrats, released at the press conference, Norton said that the federal bill “has the potential to eviscerate the entire Roe framework,” referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand.

Norton added, “Understanding the far-reaching scope of this bill, and the energy and resources that anti-choice [pro-life] advocates are going to put behind it, pro-choice groups have also indicated that stopping this bill will be a top legislative priority in 2012.”

Norton accused the bill’s sponsors, whom she referred to as “Republican bullies,” of “discriminating” against women “based solely on their residency in the District of Columbia.”

In response, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson explained, “Norton’s claim is inaccurate—the actual legislation simply makes it unlawful to perform an abortion past 20 weeks in the federal District, except in cases of life endangerment, regardless of the residency of the woman seeking the abortion. It should be noted, however, that the available data indicates that the majority of abortions performed within the District are performed on residents of other jurisdictions.”

At the press conference, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray attacked the bill and said that its supporters would never try to pass the same bill to cover the entire country, according to a report on www.washingtonpost.com. Johnson commented, “Gray certainly has no way of knowing what pro-life members of Congress may propose in the future. In any event, the congressional sponsors are taking the right approach in placing their immediate focus on the District of Columbia. An increasing number of states are moving to protect pain-capable unborn children, and introducing a nationwide bill this year would only undercut those state-based efforts. But Congress alone has the constitutional authority to legislate with respect to the District—and with that constitutional authority comes the responsibility to act to end the torment of pain-capable unborn babies in the nation’s capital.”

Johnson also charged that the bill opponents “are seeking to deflect attention away from the shocking fact that abortions currently are entirely unrestricted in the nation’s capital, at any point in pregnancy. At least two abortion vendors are openly advertising late abortions. One clinic, practically within shouting distance of the White House, provides abortion on request, by the brute-force dismemberment method (‘D&E’), up to the beginning of the seventh month. Another practitioner’s website contains references that suggest he may abort by inserting a needle into the baby’s heart to about the start of the eighth month—and in current law, there is no requirement for him to stop even at that point.”

Johnson added, “Unborn children, developed far past the point at which they are capable of experiencing excruciating pain, and often far past the point that they could survive long-term outside the mother, are suffering torment and violent death practically within the shadow of the Capitol. Congress—and the President, if he would—have the power to stop this.”

Noting that Norton had charged that bill sponsors wanted to make “guinea pigs” of D.C. residents, Johnson commented, “Since she brought that up, it is noteworthy that anyone who tears a leg off a guinea pig in the District of Columbia can be sent to prison for five years. This bill stands for the proposition that it should not be lawful to do to a pain-capable unborn human what it is a crime to do to a guinea pig.”

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that Congress shall “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever” over the District. In her February 21 statement, Norton claimed that Congress “gave up” this power by enacting the Home Rule Act in 1973. But in fact, the Home Rule Act explicitly states that Congress “reserves the right, at any time, to exercise its constitutional authority as legislature for the District, by enacting legislation for the District on any subject … .”

“Congress did not give up its constitutional responsibility for governance of the District—and indeed, Congress cannot possibly give up this authority, except by adoption of a constitutional amendment,” Johnson said. “The nation’s capital belongs to all Americans—and the Congress bears the ultimate responsibility for defending innocent human life in this federal jurisdiction. Any lawmaker who votes against this legislation is voting to allow the nation’s capital to also be the late abortion capital.”

Congressman Franks told a newspaper in his district, “If Congress does not pass this law, D.C. could become a safe-haven for late-term abortionists across the country, including those who have been stripped of their licenses for negligence or ethics violations in the states. Many states have passed this bill already, and I believe that most states will pass it in the near future, including my state, Arizona.”

The Arizona legislature is considering an omnibus pro-life bill which contains legislative findings regarding fetal pain and a 20-week cutoff. According to a report in the Arizona Republic (March 16), “The bill has strong support in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, but Gov. Jan Brewer has not said whether she would sign it if it reached her desk. Brewer has a standing policy of not commenting on pending legislation.”

At NRL News publication deadline on March 22, a bill based on the NRLC model legislation had been approved by the lower house of the Georgia legislature, and by a committee of the state senate. The full state senate is expected to consider the measure (HB 2036) during the week of March 26. Mary Boyert, director of the Respect Life Ministry for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, told NRL News, “Our hopes are high for this bill, but the pro-abortion forces are pulling out all the stops and using every trick to obstruct it.” Boyert estimated that about 1,500 abortions annually would be prevented by enactment of the bill in Georgia.


At least three other important pro-life bills, backed by NRLC, are also under active consideration in committees of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179), introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Ne.), would restore the right to purchase health insurance that does not include “items or services” that the buyer finds morally objectionable.  This right has been undermined by provisions of the ObamaCare health care law, which the Obama Administration has already utilized to mandate coverage of FDA-approved birth control drugs and sterilization procedures, even if this violates the religious beliefs of the organization or the individual paying for the insurance, and could use in the future to mandate coverage of elective abortions.  The Fortenberry bill had 222 House cosponsors as of March 22, 2012 — more than a majority of the House.

On March 1, the U.S. Senate sidetracked an identical proposal offered as a floor amendment by pro-life Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), on a vote of 51–48. (The Senate roll call is published on page ** of this issue.) Despite this initial setback, pro-life lawmakers intend to continue to challenge the Obama Administration on the conscience-rights issue.

On March 8, the House Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee conducted a public hearing on another NRLC-endorsed bill, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) (H.R. 2299). This bill, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.), had 154 House co-sponsors as of March 22, 2012. The bill would require an abortionist, when encountering a minor who is a resident of a different state, to notify a parent prior to performing the abortion, with certain exceptions. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to approve the bill in the near future. This legislation was last considered in 2006, when it was approved by the House and received support from a majority of members of the Senate, but was blocked by a Democrat filibuster.

On February 16, the House Judiciary Committee approved, on a party-line vote of 20–13, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) (H.R. 3541). This bill was introduced by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.), and of March 22, 2012, it had 93 cosponsors. The bill would generally prohibit performance of abortions sought only because of the sex or race of the unborn child. Congressman Franks originally introduced the PRENDA in 2008, but this is the first time that it has been approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Extensive additional information on H.R. 1179, H.R. 2299, and H.R. 3541 is available at the NRLC Legislative Action Center at https://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/

Important developments on congressional matters are also reported in National Right to Life News Today, which is distributed on a daily basis by e-mail to anyone who signs up on the NRLC home page at www.nrlc.org. All National Right to Life News Today stories are also prominently available on the NRLC website.

Take Action!

To see a detailed Action Alert on how you can help pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and other pro-life bills, including always-current lists of cosponsors, visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center at https://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/

Extensive additional documentation on the capacity of unborn children to experience pain, and on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection bills, is available at the NRLC website at https://www.nrlc.org/abortion/Fetal_Pain/index.html

To see a medical illustration of the abortion method most commonly used on pain-capable unborn children, paste the following address into your web browser: https://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/DEabortiongraphic.html


Co-Sponsor List Grows on Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

What follows is a list of cosponsors of the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as of March 22, 2012. The prime sponsor of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 3803, is Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.). The prime sponsor of the bill in the U.S. Senate, S. 2103, is Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). If your federal representatives have not already cosponsored this important legislation, please contact them to urge them to do so. This can be done easily by using tools available at the NRLC Legislative Action Center at https://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/, or by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-225-3121) and asking to be put through to the office of a specific member of Congress.

Alabama: Reps. Jo Bonner (R), Martha Roby (R), Mike Rogers (R), Robert Aderholt (R), Spencer Bachus (R)

Arizona: Reps. Paul Gosar (R), Trent Franks (R), Ben Quayle (R), David Schweikert (R), Jeff Flake (R)

Arkansas: Reps. Rick Crawford (R), Tim Griffin (R), Steve Womack (R)

California: Reps. Wally Herger (R), Ed Royce (R), Ken Calvert (R), John Campbell (R), Darrell Issa (R), Duncan Hunter (R)

Colorado: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R)

Florida: Reps. Jeff Miller (R), Steve Southerland (R), Gus Bilirakis (R), Dennis Ross (R), Vern Buchanan (R), Bill Posey (R), Sandy Adams (R), David Rivera (R)

Georgia: Reps. Jack Kingston (R), Lynn Westmoreland (R), Rob Woodall (R), Austin Scott (R), Tom Graves (R), Paul Broun (R), Phil Gingrey (R)

Idaho: Reps. Mike Simpson (R)

Illinois: Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D), Peter Roskam (R), Adam Kinzinger (R), Jerry Costello (D), Randy Hultgren (R), Donald Manzullo (R), Bobby Schilling (R), Aaron Schock (R), John Shimkus (R)

Indiana: Reps. Marlin Stutzman (R), Dan Burton (R), Mike Pence (R), Larry Bucshon (R), Todd Young (R)

Iowa: Rep. Steve King (R)

Kansas: Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R), Lynn Jenkins (R), Kevin Yoder (R), Mike Pompeo (R)

Kentucky: Rep. Brett Guthrie (R), Harold Rogers (R)

Louisiana: Senator David Vitter (R). Reps. Steve Scalise (R), Jeff Landry (R), John Fleming (R), Rodney Alexander (R), Bill Cassidy (R), Charles Boustany (R)

Maryland: Reps. Andy Harris (R), Roscoe Bartlett (R)

Michigan: Reps. Dan Benishek (R), Bill Huizenga (R), Justin Amash (R), Dave Camp (R), Fred Upton (R), Tim Walberg (R), Mike Rogers (R), Thaddeus McCotter (R)

Minnesota: Reps. John Kline (R), Michele Bachmann (R), Collin Peterson (D), Chip Cravaack (R)

Mississippi: Reps. Alan Nunnelee (R), Gregg Harper (R), Steven Palazzo (R)

Missouri: Senator Roy Blunt (R). Reps. Todd Akin (R), Vicky Hartzler (R), Sam Graves (R), Billy Long (R), Jo Ann Emerson (R), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R)

Nebraska: Senator Mike Johanns (R). Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R), Lee Terry (R), Adrian Smith (R)

New Jersey: Rep. Christopher Smith (R)

New Mexico: Rep. Steve Pearce (R)

New York: Rep. Peter King (R)

North Carolina: Reps. Renee Ellmers (R), Walter Jones (R), Howard Coble (R), Mike McIntyre (D), Sue Myrick (R), Patrick McHenry (R)

North Dakota: Rep. Rick Berg (R)

Ohio: Reps. Steve Chabot (R), Jean Schmidt (R), Jim Jordan (R), Bob Latta (R), Bill Johnson (R), Steve Austria (R), Steve Stivers (R), Bob Gibbs (R)

Oklahoma: Reps. John Sullivan (R), Frank Lucas (R), Tom Cole (R), James Lankford (R)

Pennsylvania: Reps. Mike Kelly (R), Tom Marino (R), Lou Barletta (R), Joe Pitts (R), Tim Murphy (R)

South Carolina: Reps. Tim Scott (R), Joe Wilson (R), Jeff Duncan (R), Trey Gowdy (R), Mick Mulvaney (R)

South Dakota: Senator John Thune. Rep. Kristi Noem (R)

Tennessee: Reps. Phil Roe (R), John Duncan (R), Chuck Fleischmann (R), Diane Black (R), Marsha Blackburn (R), Stephen Fincher (R)

Texas: Reps. Louie Gohmert (R), Sam Johnson (R), Kevin Brady (R), K. Michael Conaway (R), Bill Flores (R), Randy Neugebauer (R), Lamar Smith (R), Pete Olson (R), Francisco Canseco (R), Kenny Marchant (R), Michael Burgess (R), Blake Farenthold (R), John Carter (R)

Utah: Senator Mike Lee (R). Reps. Rob Bishop (R), Jason Chaffetz (R)

Virginia: Reps. J. Randy Forbes (R), Robert Goodlatte (R)

Washington: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)

West Virginia: Reps. David McKinley (R), Nick Rahall (D)

Wisconsin: Reps. Paul Ryan (R), F. James Sensenbrenner (R), Tom Petri (R), Sean Duffy (R), Reid Ribble (R)

Wyoming: Senator Mike Enzi (R). Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R)


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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