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June 20, 2013
Column #1,660
Congress Limits Abortion to 20 Weeks
By Mike McManus

“It was the first time in 10 years that we have had a good vote in the House of Representatives on abortion. We see this as a big step forward,” declared Carol Tobias, President of National Right to Life.

By a vote of 228 to 196, largely along party lines, the House voted to ban abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy. While the Senate is unlikely to vote on the bill, and President Obama pledged to veto it if passed – it will reverberate politically over the next year and a half as Republicans and Democrats appeal to voters in special elections this year and in the 2014 midterm elections.

Nine states have already passed similar laws – Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Dakota. This national bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, “will encourage other states to pass similar legislation, because they now have national support,” asserted Anna Higgins, Family Research Council Director of the Center for Human Dignity.

Authored by Rep. Trent Franks, the bill aims to capitalize on the public outrage surrounding Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who was convicted last month of first degree murder in the cases of three babies born alive in his clinic, whose necks were cut.

He argued he simply “snipped” the necks of babies who should have been aborted. I asked in this column last month, “Why is the snipping of the neck of a newborn any more horrific than dismembering a child of similar age in the womb?”

The difference between murder and a legal abortion is only six inches. Why is it legal to kill a baby of 24 weeks gestation in the womb who can survive outside – but murder if the 24-week baby is delivered and then killed?

The House bill differs in only one respect. It sets the limit at 20 weeks when the fetus is able to experience pain, according to Prof. Maureen Condic, Ph.D. of Neurology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Other physicians question whether a fetus of 20 weeks, whose cortex is not yet functioning, can experience pain. However, fetal surgeons who operate on unborn children “have found it necessary to sedate the unborn child with anesthesia to prevent the unborn child from engaging in vigorous movement in reaction to invasive surgery,” the bill stated.

Congress’s vote this week is the first time it has redefined the point at which the fetus becomes viable.

In the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, abortions can be performed until the point when a doctor determines a fetus’s viability, which was generally defined as 24 weeks of gestation. After that point, the government can prohibit the procedure.

“I am appalled by the savage practice of late-term abortion,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, as she stood next to an ultrasound photo of a 20-week-old unborn child on the House floor.

The bill allows three exceptions to the 20-week threshold – if the mother’s life is threatened or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest of a minor, if reported to police.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) who managed the legislation for the Democrats on the House floor, called the bill “an unconscionable attack on our constitutional freedoms.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx, North Carolina Republican, countered “Nobody takes the issue of abortion lightly, but unfortunately not enough attention is being paid to the unborn child.”

However, Democrats argued the bill was a repeat of the 2012 GOP campaign which Democrats called a “War on Women,” For example, Rep. Frederica Wilson, Florida Democrat, argued, “First of all, it is the woman’s body, not yours. She alone bears the burden, the pain and joy that it brings. Please stop trying to regulate our reproductive organs. They belong to us.”

To counter such charges, female Republicans argued for the bill led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) who noted that she became a nurse over 40 years ago, and asserted, “A woman seeking an abortion at 20 weeks is 35 times more likely to die from an abortion than she was in the first trimester,” and up to 91 times more apt to die in later abortions.

Thus, despite the claim by Democrats to be concerned about women’s health, the Republican position is demonstrably more concerned about the mother’s health – as well as with the life of her unborn child.

Scripture, my yardstick for distinguishing right from wrong, is clear: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11).

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