Senators introduce 20-week abortion ban
US Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced a version of a “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would restrict most abortions after the 20th week of gestation yesterday. In a press conference broadcast on YouTube, he said, “I assure every pro-lifer out there that it will be on the [Senate] floor sooner rather than later.”
A Senate version of a bill that passed the House of Representatives on October 3, the Act would restrict abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. President Trump has previously indicated he will sign such a bill if it is sent to him; it needs 60 votes to pass the Senate.
Twenty states, including Ohio, have banned most or all abortions after 20 weeks. Two previous versions of bills banning most abortions after 20 weeks have passed the House, but none has ever been introduced into the Senate.
Co-sponsored by 45 senators, including Ohio’s Rob Portman, it is identical to the House bill, according to spokesman for Senator Graham. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IO) and James Lankford (R-OK) spoke at the press conference. A fourth senator, Ben Sasse (R-NB) was scheduled to speak but unable to appear.
Representatives of several national pro-life organization also spoke including presidents or other administrators for National Right to Life, the Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, and Americans United for Life. They praised the bill as “common-sense legislation” that bypassed debates about moral issues, and put the United States in the company of all but seven countries on earth by restricting abortion after the 5th month.
The seven countries are the United States, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, and the Netherlands. “That’s a club of seven nations I don’t want to be in,” said Graham.
Senator James Lankford (R-OK) said the legislation would also protect a child who is accidentally delivered alive during an abortion, something he noted that is rare but that does happen. The bill would require that such a child receive medical treatment aimed at saving his or her life.
“We think that’s basic humanity,” he said. “There is at times a debate about whether a child inside the mother is a child, but there has never been a debate about a child who has been born.”
Lankford and other speakers also emphasized that at five months gestation, unborn children receiving life-saving operations are given anesthesia because they are known to experience pain.
“There is a compelling state interest to protect the child from excruciating pain,” Senator Graham said, stopping short of saying that the reason a child experiences pain during abortion is that he or she is being dismembered.
Ohio’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was signed by Governor John Kasich in December and took effect on March 17. Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, Dayton Right to Life, and other members of the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio (RTLACO) worked at the eleventh hour to include an amendment that prevents abortions after the fifth month for any reason.
“All life is equal,” said Paul Coudron, president of Dayton Right to Life. “We can’t put a value on one life over another life. We have not seen the Senate legislation yet, but as members of the RTLACO, Dayton Right to Life would support it only if there were no exceptions.”
Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) , said that abortion, as the term is generally used, is never necessary to save a woman’s life. When people use the term, she said, they mean “elective abortion” rather than the extremely rare cases when “medically-induced abortion” or “parturition” is required. Such instances can include rare cases of advanced infections and pre-eclampsia, which require an induced delivery or, past 20 weeks, a caesarian section.
“The purpose of parturition is to keep both alive, if possible,” she said. “It is never to kill the child. The purpose of elective abortion is always to kill the child.” Abortion clinics, Dr. Harrison said, do not practice parturition. The methods they use to kill children involve dismemberment, and in the final months of pregnancy take several days. They do not constitute emergency surgery and AAPPLOG opposes them and legislation that allows them.
Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, said the Senate bill does not go far enough, but would save lives if passed.
“Whether or not an unborn child can feel pain is not an indicator of a child’s humanity,” she said, “but this barometer has been used to pass some partially protective legislation for unborn babies. However, science is moving this pain marker closer to our earliest beginnings—possibly as early as five weeks gestation.
“Every child saved is a blessing, and such legislation can educate those unfamiliar with abortion violence. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a step toward the ultimate necessary legal protection for all unborn children, regardless of age, ability, or circumstances of conception.”
If the Senate brings the bill to the floor and finds the votes to pass it, however slight the victory would be to many pro-life Americans, it would be their first chance at curbing abortion since the so-called “partial birth abortion” ban of 2003. Senator Graham called on his fellow senators to begin that process.
“This is a debate worthy of a great nation,” he said.