By Dave Andrusko

Rep. Trent Franks

Rep. Trent Franks

Turning away three weakening amendments by pro-abortion Democrats, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives today approved H.R. 1797– the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”–by a vote of 20-12.

Action by the full House is likely the week of June 17.

The bill would provide nationwide protection for unborn children who are capable of feeling pain, beginning at 20 weeks fetal age. The legislation is strongly supported by the National Right to Life Committee and is based on an NRLC model bill that has already been enacted in nine states: Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota.

H.R. 1797 is sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az). At today’s committee session, weakening amendments were rejected on straight party-line votes. On the vote to favorably report the bill to the full House, the Republicans on the committee were joined by one Democrat, Pedro Pierluisi, who represents Puerto Rico.

”Because of publicity surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell and subsequent revelations about other abortionists, many Americans are becoming aware for the first time that abortions are frequently performed late in pregnancy on babies who are capable of being born alive, and on babies who will experience great pain while being killed,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “This is the most significant single piece of pro-life legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.”

The legislation contains findings of fact regarding the medical evidence that unborn children experience pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization (which is 22 weeks in the widely employed “weeks of pregnancy” or “LMP” dating system), or about the start of the sixth month, and prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother. Some of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks fetal age, is available on the NRLC website at www.nrlc.org/abortion/Fetal_Pain/index.html and also here: www.doctorsonfetalpain.com/

In a nationwide poll of 1,003 registered voters in March, 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.

There was both a flurry of scientific evidence presented and passionate statements voiced in support of the measure at the subcommittee’s May 23 hearing.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the full Judiciary Committee, said, after the subcommittee vote.

”The taking of innocent life is a practice all too common in this nation. The recent Gosnell trial reminds us that when newborn babies are cut with scissors, they whimper and cry, and flinch from pain. And unborn babies when harmed also whimper and cry, and flinch from pain. Delivered or not, babies are babies, and it has been shown that they can feel pain at least by 20 weeks. It is time to welcome young children who can feel pain into the human family. And this bill, at last, will do just that.”

So, how many abortions are performed in the U.S. on pain-capable unborn children, after 22 weeks LMP (20 weeks fetal age)? NRLC’s Johnson said: “Nobody has a good handle on how many late abortions are really occurring, but there is growing evidence that they are far more common than most people want to think.”

The Gosnell case and recent hidden-camera videos issued by the organization Live Action provide further evidence that a great deal of the late abortion iceberg is below the water. Some of the jurisdictions with the most liberal abortion policies have no reporting requirements — for example, California, Maryland, and D.C. — or do not collect data on stage of pregnancy (Florida, for example). Other jurisdictions have reporting requirements but don’t enforce them — the Grand Jury report on Gosnell said (page 171) that between 2000 and 2010, Gosnell reported only one second-trimester abortion to the state. Yet it appears (pp. 26-27, 88) that Gosnell probably performed thousands of second-trimester and third-trimester abortions during that decade. Multiple other practitioners who perform large volumes of late abortions have also failed to report or not been required to report.

While the Gosnell murder trial was underway, Washington Examiner columnist Timothy Carney asked participants in a conference call hosted by a pro-abortion website, “What is the distinction between what he [Gosnell] did, and what a late-term abortionist like, say, LeRoy Carhart does?”

Tracy Weitz, associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, explained, “When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered.”

Inside the womb—abortionists like Carhart– or outside the woman’s body—convicted murderers like Gosnell– the pain-sensitive child experiences agony we cannot even begin to imagine.

That is why H.R. 1797 is necessary.

If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at twitter.com/daveha. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.