Federal Legislative Update: Pro-lifers proposing protective legislation in both Houses of Congress

By Jennifer Popik, JD, Director, Federal Legislation

L-R Jennifer Popik, NRLC Federal Legislative Director, Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX), Carol Tobias, NRLC President, and Karen Cross, NRLC Political Director

Editor’s note. The following appears on page one of the April digital edition of National Right to Life News. Please share this story and all the great content of this 40-page issue with your pro-life family and friends.

This past month has been incredibly busy on a number of fronts related to the life issue in both houses of Congress. In spite of the fact that the House of Representatives is under the control of pro-abortion leadership, pro-life Republicans are undertaking an unprecedented effort to protect babies who survive an attempted abortion.

On the Senate side, where Republicans maintain a majority, there are upcoming hearings to protect pain-capable unborn babies. Additionally, there are two newly introduced pieces of legislation that also aim to protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child.

Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

On April 2nd nearly two hundred energized pro-life members of the U.S. House of Representatives lined up on the House floor to begin signing a discharge petition on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

The discharge petition is a tool that the pro-life Republican minority can use to circumvent pro-abortion leadership which is blocking a vote on this bill. The discharge petition can remain open an entire congress. Once it reaches a simple majority (218) of signatures, the bill can come for a vote. To reach that figure, 21 Democrats must join Republicans.

Led by Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and bill sponsor Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), an impressive 193 members signed the petition on the first day. Currently, there are 198 signers, including three Democrats–Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). The battle continues to reach the crucial 218 number of signatures.

In addition, a different prolife member has gone to the floor every legislative day since the bill’s introduction asking for unanimous consent to consider H.R. 962. Democrats have blocked these requests 28 times.

An always current list of House of Representatives signers is available here.

There was prior action in the Senate. On February 25, the U.S. Senate voted 53-44 for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. However, the bill failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to “invoke cloture” (end a filibuster) due to efforts by pro-abortion Democrats to block its advancement.

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Hearings in the U.S. Senate

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has scheduled a hearing on S. 160 for today, April 9th.

Since 2010, National Right to Life and its state affiliates have led the effort to protect pain-capable unborn children, starting with enactment of model legislation in Nebraska. Sixteen states have enacted the National Right to Life model legislation, and the law is currently in effect in 15. The legislation has previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives and has garnered a majority of votes in the U.S. Senate.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act continues to be one of the right-to-life movement’s top congressional priorities for the 116th Congress. Like the state bills, the proposed federal law would generally extend legal protection to unborn humans beginning at 20 weeks fetal age, based on congressional findings that by that point (and even earlier) the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain during an abortion.

The measure has strong public backing. A February 2019 Marist poll found that 66% of Americans support such legislation.

As NRLC President Carol Tobias has written, “it is now commonplace to read about evidence that, by 20 weeks fetal age and even earlier, an unborn child responds to many forms of stimuli, including music and the mother’s voice.” Any claim that this same child is nevertheless insensible to the violence done to her body during an abortion should engender strong skepticism.

Abortions at this stage are performed using a variety of techniques, but most often by 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. Some of the extensive scientific evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks, is available here.

Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act

On April 4th, Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act. This vital pro-life legislation would prohibit the performance of dismemberment abortion on living unborn children.

Once again this legislation is based on a model state bill proposed by National Right to Life, which has been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Enactment is pending gubernatorial signatures in Indiana and North Dakota, and more states are expected to consider this high priority legislation in 2019.

The Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act defines “dismemberment abortion” as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off . . .”

This definition largely overlaps with what those in the abortion trade currently refer to as “dilation and evacuation” or “dilation and extraction” (D&E) abortions. The method is commonly used starting at about 14 weeks of pregnancy and extending into the third trimester.

The time had come for this particularly gruesome method of abortion to end.

Abortion Pill Reversal and the Second Chance at Life Act

On April 1st, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), introduced the first-of-its-kind Second Chance at Life Act of 2019 in the U.S. House. This legislation, based on a model developed by National Right to Life, will require that a woman be informed that the effects of the chemical abortion pill can potentially be reversed in order to save her baby if she changes her mind after taking it and does not take the second of the two drugs.

Over 500 babies have been saved by the abortion pill reversal protocol.

Seven states have enacted this legislation: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.

This is important because the number of chemical abortions is increasing.

In the last ten years, the percentage of “early medical abortions” (the CDC’s designation for nonsurgical chemical abortions at or earlier than eight weeks gestation) has risen from 11.3% in 2006 to 24.2% in 2015.

High numbers of chemical abortions explain why nearly two-thirds (65.4%) of abortions are now performed at eight-week’ gestation, or earlier.

The chemical (medical) abortion currently involves a two-step drug process. The first abortifacient drug (mifepristone or RU-486) is usually given at the clinic and begins the process of shutting down the unborn child’s life support system (nutrition, oxygen, etc.). The second drug, misoprostol, is taken 24-48 hours later, usually at home, to expel the baby’s remains and complete the abortion.

Research on abortion pill reversal indicates that the first drug, mifepristone, used alone, does not always end the unborn baby’s life. A woman may still have a viable pregnancy after taking the first abortifacient drug, mifepristone.

While action on this legislation is unlikely with pro-abortion Democrats controlling the House, this important legislation can be used to educate and save lives.