HIGGINS: Preventing the suffering that abortion inflicts

The pain-capable unborn deserve humane treatment

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Amid-May report from Houston claiming abortionist Douglas Karpen performed illegal late-term abortions shows that the case of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was not an isolated incident. Sadly, the death and chaos exhibited at Gosnell’s —and allegedly, Karpen’s — hands is not at all surprising. For 40 years, we have allowed a culture of violence and inhumanity to reign over what we know to be true — that all people, no matter their race, gender, disability — or in the case of abortion, location and development — have a right to life and a right to be treated with dignity and respect. This principle is a fundamental truth that transcends human government. It is enshrined in the foundational documents of our nation, and it cannot be violated without disastrous results.

We have paved the path of death and destruction in this nation, yet we react with surprise and horror when a person takes that path to its logical end. There is no excuse for the actions of Gosnell. He alone chose them, and he must pay for them. However, we need to face the fact that what Gosnell did to those children outside the womb is no different than what is done to children, legally, inside the womb on a regular basis in this country. We are appalled to learn of the unsanitary conditions in Gosnell’s “clinic,” yet we refuse to enact common-sense regulation on abortion facilities. It’s a perfect example of what Thomas More discussed in his book “Utopia,” in which he wrote, “[W]hat else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

For too long, we have accepted the violent and inhumane practice of late-term abortion as a “reproductive right” instead of condemning the practice for what it is — a violent assault on the most vulnerable among us. Late-term abortion places women at high risk and violently ends the life of an unborn child who is capable of experiencing pain. Studies have shown that unborn infants can experience pain by at least 20 weeks gestation. This is why fetal anesthesia is routinely administered to unborn children who undergo pre-natal surgery. Killing a child in the second or third trimester, and thereby inflicting excruciating pain on him, is unconscionable and disturbing. More compassion is bestowed on animals and convicted criminals.

Several states have decided to act on behalf of these innocent victims by enacting pain-capable bans on abortion — effectively banning abortion after 20 weeks gestation. These laws are protective of both mother and child, and serve the state’s substantial interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens. Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, has introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will serve to protect pain-capable unborn children. Mr. Franks noted that his desire is to see Americans “come together to agree that we can and should draw the line at the point that these innocent babies can feel the excruciating pain of these brutal procedures.” In light of recent events and in order to preserve basic human dignity, every state should seriously consider pain-capable bans on abortion.

As our Declaration of Independence notes, the entire purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights given to all people by God, foremost among which is the right to life. As long as we remain silent in the face of horrific violations of human rights, we can expect nothing less than what happened in the case of Kermit Gosnell. It is right and just for the people of the United States to demand that their representatives at all levels of government enact measures to protect innocent human beings and vulnerable citizens. From now on, we must dedicate ourselves to teaching a new lesson to our children through our actions: that all life is valuable and deserves respect. The future of our nation depends on it.

Anna Higgins is director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.

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