The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would restrict all abortions nationwide to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 1797), introduced by Arizona Republica Trent Franks, would end abortion after the point when scientists agree unborn children can feel pain.
In a nearly party-line vote, the measure passed 228-196.
Six Democrats voted yes. Six Republicans voted against the bill. Ten Congressmen did not vote.
Democrats who voted yes include: Henry Cuellar of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Republicans who voted against the bill include Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, Richard Hanna of New York, Jon Runyan of New Jersey, and Rob Woodall of Georgia.
“Passage of today’s landmark bill marks the first time in history, in either chamber of the US Congress, that affirmative protection has been extended to unborn children,” said Franks. “It is my prayer that today also marks a day when America finally opens her eyes to the humanity of these little victims and the inhumanity of what is being done to them.”
Leaders in the pro-life movement expressed their joy at the bill’s passage.
“This vote makes a statement in favour of life even though the Dem[ocrat]-controlled Senate likely won’t move on it,” said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue. “Getting this far was a big deal.”
“This pro-woman, pro-science, Constitutional bill deserves an immediate vote in the US Senate,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the SBA List. “It’s simple: children capable of experiencing unimaginable pain from abortion must be protected across the country.”
The act’s future is uncertain, as it lacks a companion in the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto it if the measure ever reaches his desk.
If the bill becomes law, abortionists who perform late-term abortions may face a fine or up to five years in prison.
The legislation would affect the 300 abortionists who perform abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization and an estimated 140 abortion providers who are willing to perform abortions at 24 weeks or later, according to a 2008 report from the Guttmacher Institute.
Some in the pro-life movement were outraged after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia added an amendment allowing abortion in the cases of duly reported rape or incest, a change he made in response to a media feeding frenzy over Franks’ remarks about abortion and rape – remarks he says were misinterpreted.
The bill already allowed abortions to save the mother’s life.
In response, Georgia Right to Life rescinded its previous support of the bill, saying it had been “hijacked.”
“Sadly, the politics of compromise has decided that one class of children—those conceived by rape or incest—do not deserve protection from the agony of literally being ripped apart,” said GRTL President Dan Becker.
Georgia Congressmen Paul Broun and Rob Woodall were two of the six Republicans to vote nay.
However, most of the nation’s pro-life groups strongly supported the incremental measure as an improvement over existing policy. Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “Any lawmaker who votes to allow unlimited abortion in the sixth month or later is voting to encourage a continuation of the horrors associated with the likes of Kermit Gosnell.”
During debate, Democrats seized upon the fact that Cantor had scheduled Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, to manage today’s vote instead of Franks. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who has strong ties to the Democratic Socialists of America, was among those who drew attention to the fact that there are no Republican women on the House Judiciary Committee that passed the bill last Wednesday.
“Do you think it’s fair or proper for a body of men to solely determine one of the most important and private decisions a woman can make in regard to her own health and body?” she asked.
President Obama issued a statement yesterday saying he“strongly opposes” the bill, which he said presents a “direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for women’s health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients’ health care decisions, and the Constitution.”
Democrats shared his talking points in the hours prior to the vote.
“The bill is a direct threat to the privacy rights and health of every woman living in this country, and especially women of color,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA. She said minority members suffered even more “due to the terrible Hyde Amendment,” which forbids taxpayer funding of abortion.