As Kermit Gosnell starts his life sentence for murdering babies, Congress is moving to create a federal law against abortion in the last months of pregnancy.
Rep. Trent Franks made a sharp turn this week, announcing his current bill to ban abortions after the baby can feel pain at 20 weeks will not just apply to the District of Columbia — as initially intended — but to all of the U.S.
The Arizona Republican will amend his bill Thursday to broaden its scope during a hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, which he chairs.
In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Franks told me that “Gosnell was a huge catalyst” for his shift to a national law.
“We’re not trying to subjugate women or restrict freedom. We’re trying to protect children,” explained Mr. Franks. “Many states don’t have late-term abortion laws or don’t enforce them. Like here in Washington, D.C., the mother can be in labor, and it’s perfectly legal to have an abortion.”
Since 2010, 11 states have passed laws prohibiting abortions after the midpoint of pregnancy. On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Arizona’s ban as inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedents.
Mr. Franks dismissed the decision: “The 9th Circuit Court is a collection of radical leftists who have seen past rulings overturned 90 percent of the time.”
But Mr. Franks’s bill is based on a different legal theory — that the baby has the capacity by 20 weeks to experience pain while being aborted — which the Supreme Court has yet to consider.
Americans’ tolerance for late-term abortions shifted as photos and testimony emerged from Dr. Gosnell’s trial.
While Pennsylvania has a ban on abortions after 24 weeks — which the abortion provider was also convicted of committing — the visual of babies who could swim and cry being killed shocked the nation.
“It’s always been my opinion that when Americans truly see the face of abortion on demand for what it is, hearts and minds would change,” Mr. Franks said. “Unfortunately, it took Kermit Gosnell to give us a glimpse inside that tragedy.”
The Gosnell case was not an anomaly.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said that, “The abortion lobby says late abortion are very rare and occur mostly in acute medical circumstances — this is a distortion.
“As Mr. Franks bill goes forward, it will become more evident that there are a lot more late abortions — done mostly for non-medical reasons — than they have been willing to admit.”
In Texas, the Harris County District Attorney is investigating abortion Dr. Douglas Karpen for allegations that he committed multiple cases of infanticide and late-term abortions on the scale of the Gosnell clinic.
Before being amended to apply to the whole country, Mr. Franks’s bill got support from a majority of the House (220-154) in a 2012 vote. Unfortunately, the House leadership brought the bill up under suspension, so it fell short of the two-thirds majority required to pass.
A spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the bill will come up under regular order this time.
After it passes, it deserves a vote in the Senate so Americans can know how their representatives in Congress stand on performing abortions on babies who can feel every bit of the pain.