The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks, mostly along party lines. Three Democrats voted yes while two Republicans voted no.
Now the bill heads to the senate where it may die since it needs 60 votes to pass. The GOP only holds a two seat majority.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. He used the hashtag #TheyFeelPain on Twitter because science has shown us that by the 20 week mark, the unborn human beings do feel pain and we know they can survive outside of the womb around this time.
The bill exempts abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. From The Wall Street Journal:
Rep. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.), who worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist before winning his House seat last year, said on the House floor Tuesday that he has worked to save the life of babies being delivered prematurely.
“How can we live in a world where we’re trying to save that baby’s life in one room” while elsewhere people are having abortions, he asked. “We have to ban these late-term abortions.”
Several conservative groups, including Heritage Action and the National Right to Life Committee, said they would include the vote on their annual score cards of lawmakers. They also said they would push Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to bring up the bill in the Senate, in part to force Democrats facing re-election in conservative states to take difficult votes.
The White House has thrown its support behind the bill as well. From Fox News:
The White House said Monday that it “strongly supports” the efforts to “secure critical pro-life protections” and that the bill provides children with the “stronger protections” they deserve.
“The bill, if enacted into law, would help to facilitate the culture of life to which our Nation aspires,” the White House also said in a statement. “Additionally, the bill would promote a science-based approach to unborn life, as recent advancements have revealed that the physical structures necessary to experience pain are developed within 20 weeks of fertilization.”
But even if the bill does not pass the senate, many states have already banned abortions after 20 weeks.
Survival rates for extremely premature babies continue to climb. CBS News reported in 2015:
According to a new study of more than 34,600 pre-term babies born between 1993 and 2012, published Tuesday in JAMA, overall survival rates for preemies between 22 and 28 weeks of gestation increased to 79 percent in 2012, up from 70 percent in 1993. The smallest babies had the biggest improvement in survival rates, showing a more than 5 percent improvement.
“I say we’re cautiously optimistic,” lead researcher Dr. Barbara J. Stoll, a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Center of Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, told CBS News.
Any woman who has been pregnant knows how a baby reacts by 20 weeks. The baby is moving and will squirm when someone presses on the belly. But again, science has shown the development of a baby’s system:
Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body by no later than 16 weeks after fertilization, and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks. For unborn children, says Dr. Paul Ranalli, a neurologist at the University of Toronto, 20 weeks is a “uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop.” As a result, unborn babies at this age probably feel pain more intensely than adults.
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