- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2017

For the third time in five years, the Republican-led House has passed legislation that would prohibit most late-term abortions when the fetus can feel pain.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday in a near party-line vote of 237-189 in the lower chamber.

It faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans don’t have the votes to override a filibuster from Democrats, who blocked similar versions of the legislation in 2013 and 2015.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said she remains optimistic about the bill’s chances. She compared it to the yearslong effort to pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which was enacted in 2003.

“We have hope,” Ms. Mancini said. “Unless we start to make these strides on one side, then we won’t on the other side. The partial-birth abortion ban took a long time to get passed and ultimately enacted. So I see it a little bit like that.”

Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, the Pain-Capable Act would criminalize the performance of abortion after 20 weeks of gestation except in the cases of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother.

The White House issued a statement Monday reaffirming President Trump’s intention to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

“The Administration strongly supports H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections,” the statement said.

The House held an emotional debate over the bill prior to its passage.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said children born prematurely at 20 weeks can laugh, cry and feel pain. He said the law shouldn’t treat children differently based on if they’re in the womb or not.

“Again, these children are there being assisted, and if you touch them, if you try to dismember them once they’re born, they will feel the pain,” Mr. Smith said. “In like manner, an unborn child at 20 weeks gestation will feel the pain.”

Rep. Mia B. Love, Utah Republican, said “each human life should be protected under the rule of law.”

“Each life that feels pain should be free from being tortured,” Ms. Love said. “I cannot believe that we are here on the floor of the House, the people’s House, continuing to plead and ask for life.”

Twenty states currently have 20-week abortion bans on the books. But opponents of such legislation argue it’s unconstitutional.

“When life puts a woman in even the toughest of circumstances, the highest court in the land said the decision that she makes should be hers, free from any interference from the government,” said Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, New York Democrat. “Roe v. Wade is a firewall that women rely on, but with every passing year and every new session of Congress, politicians have tried to chip away at it brick by brick, hoping it will crumble away.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey Democrat, told a story about one of her constituents named Carrie who procured a late-term abortion because she didn’t want her child, who had been diagnosed with several fetal abnormalities, to suffer.

“The doctor informed them that infants with this condition very rarely survive more than a few days after delivery,” Ms. Watson Coleman said. “According to Carrie, ‘We both calmly made the decision to have an abortion. We did not want our little girl to suffer; we would much rather take on that suffering for her.’”

About 2 percent of all abortions in America occur after 20 weeks gestation. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Pain-Capable Act could prevent as many as 10,000 late-term abortions from taking place every year.

Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said Democrats will probably block the bill once it reaches the Senate.

But he said Tuesday’s vote is important because it forced lawmakers to come out for or against late-term abortion and raised awareness about the prevalence of the procedure in America.

“The fact is we’re one of seven countries in the world that allows elective abortion after 20 weeks in most states,” Mr. Donovan said. “The education lets people know not only that it’s legal, but that babies are surviving premature birth. The whole concept of viability is a creation of abortion law, but we can actually save most of these kids now.”

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