- - Sunday, October 15, 2017


Human liberty and dignity notched a big win earlier this month. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a landmark step adding further protections for the unborn by criminalizing abortions performed after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

The bill levies a fine or prescribes up to five years in prison for physicians who perform an abortion after this time window. The bill provides exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother as well as pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. The bill is a significant improvement on current law regulating abortion and is the greatest achievement of the 115th Congress to date.

The bill upgrades protections for the unborn. Punishing doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks is the main thrust of the bill. The real work the bill does, however, is recalibrate the way the law protects the unborn. The bill is premised on the fact that life is precious and that science has determined that fetuses feel pain at this point during a pregnancy. Since the unborn feel pain, the law goes further by giving every opportunity to preserve life. This is why even in cases when a doctor performs an abortion after 20 weeks for one of the exceptions, a physician is required to have a neonatal resuscitation specialist on hand to attempt to save an aborted child. Further, under these circumstances, doctors are also required to conduct an abortion in a way with the greatest potential of saving the child’s life. These are noteworthy approaches to providing the unborn with legal protections otherwise not afforded to them.

The bill is the furthest move forward of current law regulating abortion in the United States. The keynote case regarding abortion, Roe v. Wade, held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell under the umbrella of the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. This would be the most notable piece of legislation regulating abortion since the partial-birth abortion ban enacted in 2003. If signed into the law, an inevitable Supreme Court legal challenge would be a groundbreaking counter to the Roe precedent.

To be clear, House Bill 36 does not end abortion. Planned Parenthood and other abortion interest groups have already launched social media smear campaigns labeling the bill an “abortion ban.” This is false for the simple reason that it is not an abortion ban. Protections still exist for expecting mothers in cases of rape, incest or complications during pregnancy. The bill’s aim is to account for and protect the liberties afforded to the unborn by eliminating abortions after 20 weeks. Ginning up opposition by claiming the bill represents an abortion ban is a misleading ploy to kill an lifesaving bill.

The next step will be taken in the Senate, where congressional experts have already predicted it will face a lengthy battle. With a Republican majority, however, there is some hope that the bill could pass, though unlikely with any bipartisan support.

More important than House Bill 36 is the next step for abortion in our culture. In the abortion debate, there emerges a vocal right and left. The left abhors any regulation or law that limits, precludes or makes more difficult a woman’s ability to get an abortion. The right views conception as the beginning of life and, therefore, seeks to create regulations to protect life. Statistics don’t support hard-line positions, but rather portray an America hoping for fewer abortions. A 2016 Marist Poll found that 77 percent of women support limiting abortion to the first trimester, and 59 percent found abortion to be morally wrong. A supermajority of women, therefore, support this bill and more than half of women consider it to be a moral imperative.

Americans of all stripes seem to universally agree that there ought to be fewer abortions. And with the exception of propaganda by Planned Parenthood, there is nothing beautiful, glorious, or good about abortion. Viewed most favorably, an abortion is a medical procedure, sometimes invasive, to end a pregnancy. Least favorably, abortion is ending a life.

Aren’t we trying together to see fewer abortions? An outright ban could have health ramifications in a worst-case backroom, unregulated abortion nightmare peddled by Planned Parenthood. No one wants that. But a 20-week abortion limit provides a sturdy step to a societal consensus that abortion is an evil that we are seeking to extinguish. What we’re really targeting as a society is fidelity in our sexual relationships and safety for our girlfriends, partners and wives so they aren’t faced with this difficult choice. Abortion remains an injustice to the unborn and to women who feel they have nowhere else to turn. We have a duty to protect both.

All Americans want fewer abortions. Since its introduction to the U.S. in 1973, it has been a dark escape from the responsibility and beauty of bringing life into this world. House Bill 36 provides a necessary milestone in the process of healing as a nation.

• Tyler Grant is a lawyer in New York.

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