Now is the right time for a nationwide Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

By Dave Andrusko

Rep. Trent Franks

Rep. Trent Franks

First, a thank you to all those who liked yesterday’s NRL News Today story, “House Judiciary Subcommittee to hold hearing on nationwide ban on late abortions to end Gosnell-style atrocities.” When people click on the “like” button, it typically means they will share the story with some/many of their social network contacts. If you didn’t, please pass this story along.

Tomorrow the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will conduct a hearing on a nationwide Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 1797) which would ban elective abortions when a baby is capable of feeling pain, which the bill recognizes as existing by 20 weeks fetal age, if not before. Such laws are already on the books in nine states.

Pro-lifers fervently believe now is the right time to advance such a bill. The (all too limited) coverage of the murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell has provided a window of opportunity. As much as pro-abortionists wish otherwise, that window is not about to close for the simple (and ugly) reason that Gosnell was no one-of-a-kind outlier, the mantra of the Planned Parenthoods and NARALs of this world.

He is the public face of the grisly late abortion trade and he has plenty of company. For example, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently called for an investigation of a Houston abortionist. And, according to the New York Times, “The Harris County district attorney’s office said [last]Wednesday that it would investigate charges that a Houston doctor had delivered live babies during third-trimester abortions and killed them after they emerged.”

But adhering to the old adage that the best defense is a good offense, we read pieces such as “Is abortion about to doom Republicans again,” by Irin Carmon.  A reliably pro-abortion scribe, her thesis is that after the last election, Republican members of the House of Representatives are content to allow pro-lifers in the state legislatures to do all the heavy lifting on abortion. Taking up a nationwide Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would just give Democrats the opportunity to resurrect the bogus “war on women” meme.

How about that? Three things.

First, pro-abortion Democrats will return to that silt-filled well no matter what Republicans say or do. The opportunity to educate the public on a reality few know—that there ARE late abortions and a lot more than most people could possibly stomach—far outweighs the impact of the demagoguery that is the pro-abortion Democrat’s calling card.

Second, speaking of the 2012 elections, the abortion issue hurt some pro-life candidates not because opinion had swung in a pro-abortion direction but because the mainstream news media was determined to focus on the facets of the issue most advantageous to the pro-abortion side, and to amplify and distort two unfortunate comments by Republican Senate candidates. (See Dr. David N. O’Steen’s, “Learning from the 2012 Elections,” at

If you’ve read NRL News Today, you know that once again there are more self-identified pro-lifers than self-identified pro-choicers and a majority of the public remains opposed to the reasons for which over 90% are performed. (See and

Third, there was solid majority support in the House of Representatives for the version of the bill that would have applied only to the District of Columbia. As explained on several occasions by NRLC, last Friday Mr. Franks announced his intention to revise the bill (H.R. 1797) in committee to cover the entire nation.


And the public stands behind the principles that undergird this nationwide ban on late abortions. In a nationwide poll of 1,003 registered voters in February and March 2013, The Polling Company found that 64% would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks — when an unborn baby can feel pain — unless the life of the mother was in danger. Only 30% opposed such legislation.

I mentioned the educational impact of a debate over aborting babies capable of feeling pain. In my judgment, that cannot be exaggerated. Many, many, many people have no idea abortions are performed late in the second trimester and beyond and even fewer know that by the 20th week, these little ones can experience pain.

As NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson told Emily Miller of the Washington Times

“The abortion lobby says late abortion are very rare and occur mostly in acute medical circumstances — this is a distortion. As Mr. Franks bill goes forward, it will become more evident that there are a lot more late abortions — done mostly for non-medical reasons — than they have been willing to admit.”

A collateral benefit is that the public will learn about the changing threshold of fetal viability. Yesterday we talked about the congressional testimony of Dr. Colleen Malloy. “In June 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association reported a Swedish series of over 300,000 infants,” she said. “Survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks post-fertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively.”

Just to re-emphasize–over half of babies born at 21 weeks fetal age survive to one year of life as do over two-thirds of babies born at 22 weeks fetal age. Talking about fetal viability (as so many news accounts do) as if it begins at 22 weeks fetal age is simply wrong.

Be sure to keep close tabs on this debate by regularly visiting and forwarding stories from here using

The NRLC Legislative Action Center provides easy-to-use tools by which you can urge your federal representatives to co-sponsor and push forward the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act! The Action Center also displays up-to-date listings, arranged by state, of all of the current congressional co-sponsors of the legislation.