Pro-Life Conservatives Demand Senate Advance ‘Pain-Capable’
House GOP passes 20-week abortion ban, but measure heads to uncertain future in upper chamber
House Republicans delivered the pro-life movement a key victory Tuesday, voting 237-189 to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after 20 weeks.
H.R. 36, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), makes abortions 20 weeks after conception illegal unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or resulted from rape or incest. Doctors who violate the bill could be slapped with a fine or face up to five years in prison, or both, while the mothers themselves face no penalties. In passing the bill on to the GOP-led Senate, the House succeeded in moving President Donald Trump’s agenda forward while giving the Senate an opportunity to begin redeeming itself.
“The GOP needs to put points on the board in both the House and the Senate. And this is part of that process to actually support the base who gave them their seats,” Penny Young Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), told LifeZette. “This is something that Republican-base voters felt strongly about. This is an issue that Trump voters support.”
“And so I think that this is — it’s important, and good policy, but it’s also good politics,” Nance added. “They need points on the board, no doubt.”
CWA and more than 15 other major conservative organizations announced their support for H.R. 36, and the White House released a statement Monday in which Trump backed the bill.
“The bill, if enacted into law, would help to facilitate the culture of life to which our Nation aspires,” the White House said in its 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.”
“The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,” the statement continued. “America’s children deserve the stronger protections that H.R. 36 would advance.”
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) group noted in its Tuesday press release that nationwide polling from companies such as Quinnipiac, the Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post/ABC News, and others have found that “a plurality or majority” of Americans support limiting abortions to about the first 20 weeks.
“The United States is one of only seven nations in the world that allow children in the womb to be killed for any reason up until the moment of birth, putting us in the company of China and North Korea. This bill, which the President has promised to sign, would get us out of that disgraceful club and bring our laws into line with basic human decency,” SBA List said in its press release.
“Twenty states have passed their own legislation to protect babies at five months, and polls consistently show that a large majority of Americans — women in higher numbers than men — support it,” SBA List added. “It’s past time for Congress to pass a nationwide law protecting unborn children from the unspeakable cruelty of late-term abortion.”
But the bill faces a difficult battle in the Senate — even though the GOP holds 52 seats — because of the caucus’s moderate senators, who helped sink the GOP’s repeated efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House passed a similar bill in 2015 before the Senate struck it down. Thus, reaching a 60-vote threshold to send the bill to Trump’s desk appears unlikely at this time.
“You’d have to be an absolute activist to oppose this bill,” Nance said. “The real extremists on abortion are people like Planned Parenthood. And, you know, it came out actually in the [presidential] debate with Donald Trump. [Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton was unmasked as an extremist on the issue when Donald Trump went to the trouble to explain the issue of abortion and how it’s actually, what really happens — the violence that occurs in the womb against the unborn child. People recoiled.”
“So I’ve had subsequent conversations with [Trump] on the issue of abortion. He is very supportive of the pro-life position and is sincere about it,” she said. “And so we’re going to get through the House today. We’re going to have to do some hard work to get through the Senate. But this is all part of, you know, the road to getting there.”
During his oral arguments on the House floor prior to the vote, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted Democrats who deliver “beautiful speeches filled with compassion for the voiceless, the defenseless, and the marginalized” while still advocating for on-demand abortions all throughout a woman’s pregnancy up until birth — regardless of the child’s pain.
“We should care for the voiceless—for those whose cries of pain are never heard. We should care for the defenseless—for those who will only be saved if we act to protect them,” McCarthy said. “We should care for the marginalized—for those who have their very humanity denied even as their noses, eyes, ears, heartbeats, and every movement are visible testaments of their life.”
Nance argued that H.R. 36 “goes to the core of who we are as a people,” saying that “even if people do not agree with me that life begins at conception, hardly anyone thinks that it is appropriate for us to take the life of an unborn child who’s going into the sixth month of pregnancy, the sixth month of development, who has fingernails and eyebrows and all her major organs, can hear and respond to her mother’s voice and can feel pain.”
“She is a member of our human family, and the vast majority of American people are in agreement that there’s nothing compassionate, there’s nothing good about taking the life of an unborn child,” she said.
“So we’ve made progress, and this bill helps us make progress on the life issue in general because it explains to people what we’re talking about. Any time that we can talk about fetal development, we win,” Nance added. “Today we are many steps down the road. We’re not to the end of the road, but we’re going to get there because public opinion is on our side, and public policy is downstream of public opinion.”
(photo credit, homepage image: Nogwater, Flickr; photo credit, article image: Ryan J. Buster Benson, Flickr)