By Carol Tobias, President, National Right to Life
Editor’s note. This op-ed appeared in Thursday’s Washington Times.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-196 in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, announced that he would introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” last weekend, Mr. Graham noted that protecting pain-capable unborn children from the horror of abortion “is a debate worthy of a great democracy.”
There is substantial medical evidence that unborn children are capable of experiencing pain by at least 20 weeks post-fertilization. Abortions performed at this stage of pregnancy use a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool.
While most of us can hardly imagine undergoing a dental procedure without the benefit of anesthesia, the law of the land under Roe v. Wade condones this violent dismemberment of unborn children without any regard for their rights or humanity. Common decency demands that this be changed and that these unborn babies be protected.
Based on a 2008 study from the Guttmacher Institute (which was originally founded as a special research affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, currently the nation’s largest abortion provider), we estimate there are at least 140 abortionists in the United States who perform abortions on unborn children who are at least 20 weeks of fetal age.
When the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, our understanding of pain and the development of the unborn child was so primitive that even a newborn undergoing surgery did not receive anesthesia — only a paralytic to keep them still.
Medical advancements have changed the way we view unborn children. Today, unborn children undergo surgery in utero. Ultrasound technology has allowed a baby’s first pictures to adorn the refrigerators of parents and grandparents long before they meet their newest family member face-to-face. Yet under current law, the same arms and legs seen in ultrasound images can be brutally torn apart during an abortion.
Just how many late abortions are performed in the United States on pain-capable unborn children? While we don’t have a good handle on just how many late abortions are really occurring, there is growing evidence that they are far more common than most people want to think.
The case of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell and 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 the District of Columbia — or do not collect data on the stage of pregnancy (Florida, for example).
Other jurisdictions have reporting requirements, but don’t enforce them. The grand jury report on Gosnell said that between 2000 and 2010, he reported only one second-trimester abortion to the state. Yet it appears 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 them or have not been required to report them.
Enough is enough. It’s time to revisit Roe v. Wade’s policy of allowing unrestricted abortion.
Ten states have already enacted laws protecting pain-capable unborn children based on National Right to Life’s model bill. Just last week, language protecting pain-capable unborn children went into effect in Texas. The pain-capable unborn child language was written into a larger omnibus pro-life bill that brought on a pro-abortion media frenzy during Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster in June. Late last Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for the challenged provisions of the Texas law to take effect. The language protecting pain-capable unborn children went unchallenged by pro-abortion activists.
A nationwide poll conducted in March 2013 by The Polling Company found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 64 percent — would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act; only 30 percent opposed such legislation. Female voters split 63 percent to 31 percent in support of such a law, and among independents, it enjoyed 63 percent support as well.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Graham said, “The government has a legitimate interest to protect the child after the 20-week period of development because they can feel pain. That is what a rational, humane society should do — protect the child that can feel pain from an abortion.”
One-fifth of the states, nearly two-thirds of Americans and the U.S. House of Representatives agree. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to do its job and act to protect these vulnerable members of our human family.
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