- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

House Republicans are set to muscle through a revamped abortion bill Wednesday that bans the controversial procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, insisting they’ve finally settled an internal GOP fight that capsized a similar bill in January.

Long sought by pro-life advocates, the bill would impose a national ban on abortions at the point where some research says fetuses can feel pain.

This week’s vote comes just days after new research found that some babies born prematurely, as soon as 22 weeks, can survive — further complicating the already-complex issue of when a fetus is considered viable outside the womb.

“It is now commonplace to read about evidence that, by 20 weeks fetal age and even earlier, an unborn child responds to many forms of stimuli, including music and the mother’s voice,” the National Right to Life Committee told Congress ahead of the vote. “Claims that the same child is nevertheless insensible to the violence done to her body during an abortion should engender strong skepticism.”

The bill Republican leaders are pushing contains an exemption allowing women who became pregnant due to rape to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks, so long as the women receive counseling or medical treatment.

But the new version of the bill no longer requires women to report the incident to the police — a provision that tripped up the bill last time, when Republican women lawmakers argued victims had been through enough without having to prove a legal case.

The women’s objections helped sink the bill in January, when GOP leaders had hoped to pass the bill through the House at the same time as the annual March for Life, when tens of thousands of marchers walk down Constitution Ave. to the Supreme Court to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a right to abortion.

Current Supreme Court precedent says the right to abortion cannot be severely infringed as long as the fetus is not deemed viable.

Since the Roe v. Wade decision, the states have produced a “latticework” of abortion law, with 42 banning abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy — a threshold that usually hinges on how lawmakers view a fetus’ viability, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health and rights.

The bill the House takes up Wednesday, written by Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, also includes language designed to head off repeats of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia and is now serving a life term for killing three babies born alive at his practice, as well as an adult patient.

Wednesday’s vote is timed to coincide with the second anniversary of Gosnell’s conviction.

Mr. Franks’ bill would insist that a second neonatal physician be present at abortions performed after 20 weeks under one of the bill’s exemptions, so that a baby born alive during an abortion can be cared for.

Babies born alive are recognized as persons under the law.

“We know of no issues or concerns with the exception provisions, and are confident the bill will pass with strong Republican support,” Franks spokeswoman Destiny Decker said.

The bill includes an exemption for women whose lives are in danger because of the pregnancy, and in cases of incest in which the victim is a minor — although that must have been reported to law enforcement or a government agency.

Republicans in January voted to ban the use of taxpayer funds to subsidize abortions under Obamacare, a measure that attracted only three Democrats, after withdrawing the first version of the 20-week ban.

President Obama is likely to veto the new bill should it clear the Senate, and Democrats remained unimpressed by the GOP’s revisions.

“I don’t think the vote will be much different than it would have been [before the changes],” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who decried the legislation Tuesday as “another message bill.”

While conservative groups like Heritage Action cheered the GOP effort, pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America urged House members to vote “no.”

They said the timing of the bill was particularly troubling, coming just days after the administration made overtures to insure contraception coverage under Obamacare and recognize women’s health needs.

“The anti-choice GOP clearly missed the message the first time around: Americans don’t want these politicians inserting themselves into our personal health care decisions,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said.

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