(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Members of the pro-life community, including a number of U.S. Senators, came together at a press conference in Washington D.C., on Tuesday to push for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.
"This legislation, which according to five major national polls is supported by the majority of Americans, would protect babies and women from the horrific violence of abortion beyond 20 weeks," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life political organization, referring to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1670).
Dannenfelser was joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham, and other national pro-life leaders who called on Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring S.1670 to a vote in the Senate. The House version of the bill was passed in June 2013 by an overwhelming majority.
The Susan B. Anthony List president reminded the audience that at 20 weeks, an unborn child in the womb measures about five to six inches and weighs about nine ounces.
"The baby can hear sounds – including his mother's voice, heart and even her growling stomach if she's hungry! The baby can hear sounds outside her mother's body as well – and will cover her ears with her hands if it gets too loud," Dannenfelser continued.
"At this point in pregnancy, doctor's already recommend parents talk to their baby and play music for them. These simple acts recognize the humanity and existence of the child well before their birthday."
Currently, 13 U.S. states have 20-week abortion limits to protect unborn children more than halfway through pregnancy.
The push for the bill comes nearly one year after Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three babies born alive in his clinic, which has been dubbed the "house of horrors."
Pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood have spoken out against the proposed legislation, however, and said that nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks of pregnancy.
In a list of issues it has with the bill, the organization wrote on its website that the 20-week ban is "unconstitutional and a clear attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade at the expense of the health of our nation's women."
It adds that it is dangerous to suggest criminalizing doctors for up to five years in jail for performing such abortion procedures.
"Sen. Graham is not a doctor, and he shouldn't have the right to take options away from doctors in dangerous medical situations, or force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term with no chance of survival," Planned Parenthood argues.
"Worse, the bill criminalizes doctors, with imprisonment of up to five years, fines, or both. Doctors oppose these laws because they prevent them from giving their patients the best health care possible in an individual situation."
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the U.S., with a number of studies and polls commissioned to test American attitudes toward the practice.
A Gallup graph showing the change of attitudes over the years shows that for the past four decades, Americans have largely supported abortion only under certain circumstances, with the latest survey in 2013 noting that 52 percent of respondents hold that view, while another 26 percent support abortion under any circumstances and 20 percent say it should be illegal in all circumstance.
In 2013, 48 percent of respondents also identified with the pro-life group, compared to 45 percent with the pro-choice category.
Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News surveys have found, however, that the majority of Americans do not support late-term abortions.
Dannenfelser concluded her speech by urging the Senate to stand up for humans rights of children late in pregnancy.
"The few, mere inches that separate a child in the womb from a child outside the womb should never determine whether its intentional 'demise,' as Gosnell used to say, is permitted by law," she said.
"Americans overwhelmingly oppose late-term abortions and the law should follow their instinctive resistance to this dehumanizing and degrading practice."