Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: Martin Jacobsen (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The U.S. House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, that bans abortions after 20-weeks, on Tuesday afternoon 237 to 187.

The bill, sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more. A violator – the abortionist, not the mother – is subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

The bill also contains two exceptions. The first is for the life of the mother, an exception that is generally accepted by the pro-life community. The second, an exception for abortion after 20 weeks in the case of rape or incest, is an exception generally opposed in the pro-life community. At the federal level, it has been difficult to pass any bill, in either chamber, that does not contain that language because of perceived negative political implications among women voters. The inclusion of this language in the bill is disappointing as abortion in the case of rape or incest makes two victims and causes further emotional trauma to the mother.

Among Iowa’s Congressional delegation, Congressmen Rod Blum (R-Iowa), Steve King (R-Iowa), and David Young (R-Iowa) voted in favor of the bill. Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) voted no.

Three Democrats voted in favor of the bill, Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), and Collin Petersen (D-MN). Only two Republicans voted against the bill, Congressmen Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Charlie Dent (R-PA).

The House passed the bill in 2015 on a 242-184 vote, but the Senate failed to invoke cloture 54 to 42, six shy of the votes needed to bypass a filibuster. The bill will be difficult to pass in the Senate outside of a reconciliation bill or the Senate changing its rules. The Republican caucus is not even 100 percent united behind pro-life bills which makes the passage of the bill that much more difficult.

National pro-life groups celebrated the bill’s passage in the House.

“Today’s vote to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was a win for basic human decency. Thanks to Leader McCarthy and Rep. Trent Franks, we are one crucial step closer to protecting thousands of unborn children nationwide from painful late-term abortions,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. “It was also especially fitting that strong pro-life women like Rep. Karen Handel and Rep. Liz Cheney were at the forefront to introduce the bill and lead debate. Polls consistently show that large, diverse majorities of Americans support this legislation – women in higher numbers than men.”

“The United States is one of only seven nations in the world that allow children in the womb to be killed for any reason up until the moment of birth, putting us in the company of China and North Korea. Our nation does not belong in that disgraceful club. Momentum has long been building for national legislation to protect babies at five months. Twenty states have passed their own Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts,” she added.

“Now it’s time for the pro-life majority in the Senate to bring up this bill and force vulnerable pro-abortion Senators up in 2018 to either stand with their pro-life constituents and vote for this bill, or stand with the extreme abortion lobby and vote in favor of late-term abortion-on-demand. This is not a vote that Senator Claire McCaskill or any Senator running in a state carried by President Trump wants to have,” Dannenfelser concluded.

“Abortion is the human rights issue of our time. Regardless of where one comes down on the issue of life, it is undeniable that an unborn child can feel pain at 20-weeks’ gestation. Not only does this legislation protect unborn children, but it also protects women who face a substantially higher risk of complications from a late-term abortion,” Penny Young Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, said.

“It is time that our laws reflect the principles which have upheld our government, like that of life – life for the baby that feels pain when poked or prodded in the womb and the life of the mother whose life is at risk when seeking a late-term abortion. We now call upon the Senate to swiftly take up and pass this legislation,” she added.

“This bill would save thousands of unborn babies annually from terribly painful deaths,” Carole Tobias, president of National Right to Life said. “It is now clear that the overwhelming majority of House Democrats believe that painfully dismembering babies, in the sixth month and later, is just fine – now let them try to explain that to their constituents.”

Nationwide polling by the polling company, inc./WomanTrend, Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News has found that a plurality or majority of Americans support limiting abortion after five months, women in higher numbers than men.

Support among Millennial voters for the bill is especially high (78 percent), African-Americans (70 percent), and Hispanics (57 percent). Several national polls have found that as many as 51 percent of Democrats support limiting abortion after twenty weeks.

President Donald Trump has committed to sign the bill should it pass Congress.

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