Washington D.C., May 13, 2015 / 17:35 pm
Two years after abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted of committing three first-degree murders at his abortion clinic, the House passed a bill Wednesday that effectively bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
"This bill is about protecting pain-capable babies and their mothers from the tragedy … of late-term abortion-on-demand," Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill's sponsor, stated May 13 to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol building.
"It is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue," he added. "This is a test of our own humanity and who we are as human family."
The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, "excluding psychological or emotional conditions." For an abortion to be obtained in cases of rape or incest, the offense must be reported to the proper authorities when a minor seeks an abortion.
This clause ensures the "safety of the child that's pregnant," explained Mallory Quigley of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
The bill helps not only children but women as well, said one of the leading co-sponsors, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.). "It provides that the mother must get medical attention, medical care, or counseling to help them with this very difficult decision," she told CNA.
The mother must receive all proper information from the physician about the age of her child, the law, and the fact that if the child is born alive from a botched abortion procedure it would receive all the normal medical care any child would receive. A second physician must be present at any late-term abortion procedure to ensure medical care for the child.
The bill passed by a margin of 242-184, largely along party lines. Four Republicans voted against it, and four Democrats supported it.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) announced that he would "welcome debate" on the legislation in the Senate. "There are 7 countries that allow on-demand abortions at 20-weeks & I don't believe the US should be in that club," he tweeted after the bill's passage.
Many Christian and pro-life groups supported the bill's passage, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
An earlier version of the bill was planned for passage on Jan. 22, the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but in an 11th hour turn a group of GOP congresswomen balked at supporting the bill over its rape exception, claiming the legislation would tarnish the party's image among youth and women voters.
Actually, risks from abortions noticeably increase after 20 weeks of pregnancy, supporters claimed, saying that threats to the well-being of the mother go up as well.
Technology has allowed for a much clearer view of the viability of the pro-life argument, the bill's supporters insisted, noting that science is clear that by 20 weeks a baby feels pain. The state has a necessary interested in protecting both woman and child, they added.
"Every life deserves the opportunity to reach its full potential," Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers stated on the House floor before the vote. The congresswoman has a son with Down syndrome and has been a pro-life advocate for children receiving negative pre-natal diagnoses, who suffer from significantly higher rates of abortion than other unborn children.
These unborn children are the most defenseless in society and must be protected, insisted Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) in an impassioned speech on the House floor.
"What do we stand for in this institution – what do we stand for in America – if we do not stand up for the most defenseless and voiceless among us?" he asked on the House floor.
The bill has far-reaching implications for the 2016 presidential election, the Susan B. Anthony List said, noting that 14 Republican presidential candidates have publicly supported the legislation, providing pro-lifers an opportunity to "go on offense."
Supporters said 60 percent of Americans support such a bill.
Members of Congress announced last Friday that the bill would be voted on the anniversary of Gosnell's conviction. The abortionist's clinic was described as a "house of horrors" by former employees.
Worker testimonies included stories of babies surviving abortion attempts having their spines cut, mothers drugged and dead babies flushed down toilets.
The babies could obviously feel pain, pro-lifers said, and so can unborn babies at 20 weeks of age – that is "beyond question," Franks stated.
The White House had announced its intention to veto the previous bill in January, and is expected to veto this legislation if it passes the Senate.