- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Senate on Tuesday failed to muster enough votes to advance a bill that would prevent most late-term abortions for concern that fetuses would feel pain during the procedure.

The chamber voted 54-42 to proceed with the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Sixty votes were needed.

Three Democrats — Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — voted for the measure.

Two Republicans — Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois — voted against it.

The Senate is expected to take up more abortion bills later this month. One would defund Planned Parenthood for a year and another would criminalize the failure to offer full medical care to born-alive infants after an abortion. The House passed both bills, H.R. 3134 and H.R. 3504, on Friday.

Senate Democrats decried these abortion-related bills as pandering to Republicans’ pro-life base and a waste of time, citing a potential government shutdown on Oct. 1 if spending bills aren’t passed.

The Senate debated the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bill largely along partisan lines Monday and Tuesday.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, said H.R. 36 was an attack on women’s health care rights — and futile, since Republicans “know they don’t have the votes to pass” the bill.

Late-term abortions, Ms. Shaheen added, are typically due to “complex circumstances,” and banning abortions before a fetus is generally deemed viable is wrong, she said.

Ms. Collins also objected to the “well-meaning but flawed” bill, saying it didn’t include an exception for grievous injury to the mother.

Sen. Deb Fischer, Nebraska Republican, said the bill was “commonsense” and “sensible” and reflective of advanced neonatal medical findings.

“There is substantial medical evidence that a preborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, noting that doctors regularly administer pain medication to a preborn child in second-trimester fetal surgery, in addition to anesthesia.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said the 20-week post-fertilization language actually refers to pregnancies that are 22 weeks along — an age at which “babies can survive” outside the womb.

The pain-capable bill, which passed the House earlier this year after being introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, says that by the fifth month of pregnancy, fetuses not only can survive but also experience pain — making any abortion inhumane. The act says abortion doctors must take pains to gauge the correct gestational age of the fetus.

Under the bill no abortion can be performed if a fetus’ age is 20 weeks or older unless the mother’s life is physically in danger; if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and the woman has sought counseling for it in the previous 48 hours; or, in the case of a child, the act has been reported to authorities who can act on child abuse cases. The abortion doctor has to place such information in the patient’s medical file to proceed with the abortion.

The bill further asks that the abortion be conducted in such a way that the “best opportunity” is given to the 20-week-old or older fetus to survive, and that any child born alive be given prompt medical care, including hospitalization.

Women cannot be prosecuted for violations of the act, but they or the parents of a minor may sue the abortionists who violate the law.

Pro-life advocates said the pain-capable bill “would literally take some children off of the table for destruction and dissection at Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood recently has been the subject of 10 undercover videos on the harvesting and selling of body parts of aborted fetuses by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress. Congressional investigations are underway.

On Tuesday a 3-year-old boy named Micah Pickering and his parents attended a Capitol Hill press conference. Born at 22 weeks, Micah is an example of the estimated 18,000 children who could be saved by enactment of the pain-capable bull, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

The leader of a prominent pro-choice group, however, recalled the case of a woman who learned in her fifth month of pregnancy that her unborn child had “a life-threatening complication similar to preeclampsia.”

“Her pregnancy was going to be lost no matter what, [so] she had an emergency abortion to save her life. If that had not been an option under the law, her family would have experienced two tragedies,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The Guttmacher Institute called the bill “fundamentally misguided,” premised on “faulty science” and unconstitutional because it could affect fetuses that are nonviable outside the womb.

“It would fall hardest on the most vulnerable women, and contains provisions that could lead to the targeting of abortion providers,” Guttmacher said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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