- - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When I became a nurse more than 40 years ago, I took a vow to “devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care” but, initially, our understanding of science limited the extent to which I could fulfill that promise.

During my first years of nursing, if a woman came into my hospital in labor at 32 weeks of pregnancy, our odds for saving her child were slim. However, today babies are being saved as early as 22 weeks into fetal development, according to a study cited just last week in The New York Times.

What’s more, there is significant evidence that by 20 weeks of development, unborn children have the capacity to feel pain. This is why anesthesia is used in fetal surgeries and special care is given to reduce the pain of premature infants placed in neonatal intensive care.

Sadly, while we celebrate advances in technology that prove life has value and worth before leaving the hospital, we also continue to be one of only seven nations that allow elective, late-term abortions — putting the United States in the same category as countries like Vietnam and North Korea.

It is difficult to imagine a more important measure of a society than how it treats its most innocent and defenseless population. By condoning the destruction of unborn life that could otherwise live outside the womb, the United States tragically fails to meet this most fundamental human rights standard. Basic decency and human compassion demands that something has to change.

Polls consistently show that upward of 60 percent of Americans support putting an end to the dangerous and inhumane practice of late-term abortions. Those numbers will only increase as hearts and minds are made aware of the pain that these babies experience during abortion and the evidence supporting their viability at increasingly early stages of development.

To that end, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act this week, which will provide federal legal protection for unborn children at 20 weeks, with exceptions to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest.

The House passage of the bill coincides with the anniversary of the conviction of the infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell. This is the man who savagely killed babies born alive in his “clinic” and is responsible for the death of an adult woman. Americans were rightfully outraged when told of his crimes, but the truth is that innocent, unborn children routinely suffer the same fate as Gosnell’s victims through “normal” late-term abortions and the government does not bat an eye. The only difference between these casualties and the loss of life that resulted in Gosnell’s murder conviction is location.

While Pain Capable garnered some bipartisan support, too many of my colleagues across the aisle still continue to side with the big-abortion lobby over the innocent lives at stake in this debate.

Knowing that premature babies are being saved as early as 22 weeks into fetal development, there is no legitimate reason to oppose this bill. After all, Democrats are quick to brand conservatives as “science deniers” on a host of other issues, so why would they choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus in this debate?

If we cannot appeal to Democratic lawmakers’ sense of compassion when it comes to late-term abortion, then surely we can at least appeal to their sense of logic and fact. In the year 2015, the United States has no business aborting the lives of babies who can live outside the womb. Science agrees, and so do the majority of Americans. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will right this wrong.

Diane Black is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee.

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