- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

House Republicans tried but failed to score one more goal for the pro-life community as the House yesterday fell short of the votes needed to pass a bill requiring doctors to inform women seeking abortions later in their pregnancies that their unborn children can likely feel pain.

The bill didn’t garner the two-thirds majority it needed for approval under a fast-track process. The bill failed 250-162, with Republicans voting 210-9 for the bill, and Democrats opposing it by a 152-40 margin. The House’s one independent also opposed it.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican had pledged that if the House approved it, he would try to force the Senate to vote on it this week before lawmakers adjourn, but a Senate Republican leadership aide said Democrats would be able to block it.

Bill supporters said it’s still a victory that a majority of House members are now on record in support of a growing medical truth that the abortion industry would rather ignore.

“This is not going to go away,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and sponsor of the measure. “The evidence is growing, not diminishing, that these children feel pain.”

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, didn’t pressure her caucus to vote one way or the other on the measure. But some Democrats spoke strongly against it, arguing it’s inappropriate because the medical community hasn’t reached consensus on when and if the unborn feel pain.

“It’s a mistake to mandate that this be done when science is not clear,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat.

Backers of the bill said it’s simply about informed consent and noted there are even laws requiring animals’ pain to be lessened before they’re slaughtered. “And we can’t raise up an unborn baby to this level?” asked Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

The legislation would require any doctor performing an abortion on a woman who is at least 20 weeks into her pregnancy to first provide her with information about the ability of the unborn fetus to feel pain and offer to anesthetize the fetus during the abortion.

The woman would be given a brochure from the Department of Health and Human Services that would read, in part, “There is a significant body of evidence that unborn children at 20 weeks after fertilization have the physical structures necessary to experience pain.” She could accept or decline the fetal anesthesia option. Doctors who don’t follow these steps could face civil suits or fines of up to $100,000.

The measure is opposed by the National Abortion Federation, but NARAL Pro-Choice America has stayed neutral about it.

The Bush administration backs the bill and issued a statement saying: “Medical science has greatly improved our knowledge and understanding of fetal development in recent years, and pregnant women should be fully informed of the facts.”

Bill supporters cite medical specialists who testified at a House hearing and in federal court, including Dr. Sunny Anand, director of the Pain Neurobiology Lab at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, who said not only can the fetus feel pain at 20 weeks but “the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense” than that of newborns or older children.

Critics point out that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated it “knows of no legitimate scientific data or information” supporting the statement that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks.

Critics have also cited a literature review in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found it highly improbable that a fetus feels pain before the third trimester.

But Mr. Smith and others note two authors of the review have clear connections to the pro-choice movement yet failed to disclose this. “Talk about conflict of interest,” he said.

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