Some thoughts in anticipation of next week’s Senate action on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

By Dave Andrusko

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and NRLC President Carol Tobias.

It was the last NRL News Today post for Wednesday and went out late. But the announcement by pro-life Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the Senate will bring up the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act next week was news too important to hold until this morning.

“Now Congress has an opportunity to take a step forward. …I’m pleased to have filed cloture on this bill to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain. …And I look forward to voting for it early next week,” McConnell said, according to The Hill’s Jordain Carney.

You’ll recall that the House passed a similar bill last October by a vote of 237-189. The bill extends federal protections to unborn children who have reached 20 weeks fetal age, a juncture by which medical science has demonstrated they can experience pain.

However if 45 years post-Roe teaches us anything, it is that pro-abortionists in the Senate will admit none of this, especially the foundational truth: an unborn baby at this stage of development will experience horrific pain as she is aborted.

Thus they will slide around, skip over, and do everything they can to evade what NRLC President Carol Tobias said at a press conference in October when the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was formally introduced.

It is common to read in articles about this legislation that unborn children do not have the capacity to experience pain at 20 weeks fetal age. Those kinds of claims ignore the facts.

There is a large body of evidence that includes testimony from such experts on fetal pain as Professors Kanwaljeet “Sunny” Anand and Colleen Malloy.

In a 10-page report submitted to a federal court and accepted as expert testimony, Prof. Anand wrote, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”

Dr. Anand does not wish to be drawn into the abortion debate but his testimony stands.

Dr. Malloy, of Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, has testified before committees in both the House and Senate. She stated, “There is ample biologic, physiologic, hormonal, and behavioral evidence for fetal and neonatal pain. … Many authors have substantiated that pain receptors are present and linked by no later than 20 weeks post fertilization.”

The bill has widespread public support and is already the law in sixteen states. This is important for a number of reasons.

Enactment in nearly a third of all states, for example, tells anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see that if the federal government passes the bill, it would be in harmony with a growing number of states.

Moreover, when opinion polls show 60%+ support for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks (often without even mentioning the reality of fetal pain), clearly the public is deeply troubled by later abortions.

We will be told over and over that “Mid- and late-term abortions are already extremely rare, and a common motivation is concern that fetuses are developing with severe abnormalities,” as the Washington Post argued last year in a semi-coherent editorial.  This is a talking point straight out of the pro-abortion handbook, a bogus assertion that NRLC has debunked on numerous occasions.

For example, as NRLC President Carol Tobias said in 2015

Abortions past 20 weeks fetal age are not “rare.” We’ve estimated that at least 275 facilities in the U.S. offer them. While statistically reporting on late abortions is notoriously spotty, by very conservative estimates there are at least 11,000-13,000 abortions performed annually after this point, probably many more. If an epidemic swept neonatal intensive care units and killed 11,000 very premature infants, it would not be dismissed as a “rare” event – it would be headline news on every channel, a first-order public health crisis.

Second, that same Post editorial continued, “People of goodwill disagree about when life begins and mourn what they see as the morally disturbing decisions others make. But in a free society, and in the absence of a clear scientific standard, such decisions should remain with the consciences of individuals, not a matter of federal fiat. The Constitution demands as much.”

Let’s be clear. If there comes a time when it is impossible even for the pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecololgist (ACOG) to pretend babies at 20 weeks fetal age do not experience pain, does anyone think the Post would suddenly embrace this “clear scientific standard”? Of course not.

If in the meanwhile the “consensus” became that the unborn child experiences fetal pain at 24 weeks fetal age, would the Post change its tune? That “clear scientific standard” would be just as unacceptable.

Again thanks to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and to pro-life President Donald Trump for his strong support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.