The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a controversial bill backed by the Trump administration that would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion of a baby that is 20 weeks or older.
If enacted, the bill, referred to as H.R. 36 or the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would not make it a crime for a woman to undergo or seek to undergo a prohibited abortion.
The bill would also not prohibit an abortion if it's necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman or if her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Any doctor or health professional who conducts or attempts to conduct an abortion outside those exceptions, however, can be punished with "a fine, up to five years in prison, or both," says the bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and co-sponsored by 182 other members of Congress.
In a statement of administration policy released on the bill Monday, the White House said the administration "strongly supports" it and "If H.R. 36 were presented to the president in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law."
"The administration strongly supports H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections," the statement said.
"... The bill, if enacted into law, would help to facilitate the culture of life to which our nation aspires. Additionally, the bill would promote a science-based approach to unborn life, as recent advancements have revealed that the physical structures necessary to experience pain are developed within 20 weeks of fertilization," the statement continued. "The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. America's children deserve the stronger protections that H.R. 36 would advance."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement that the bill was "dangerous" and "out of touch."
"Congress is preparing to vote on a bill that would impose a nationwide ban on abortion at 20 weeks. This dangerous, out-of-touch legislation is nothing more than yet another attempt to restrict women's access to safe, legal abortion," the organization claims.
In a letter last Friday, however, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of Congress to support the bill.
"The Catholic Church's teaching concerning abortion is well known. We hold that every child, from conception onward, deserves love and the protection of the law. We believe that no person or government has the right to take the life of an innocent human being — and we hold that the real problems that lead women to consider abortion should be addressed with solutions that support both mother and child," he said.
He noted that even though people hold different opinions about abortion "a strong majority" of the public has consistently frowned upon late-term abortions.
"Public attention to stories about Planned Parenthood's callous and disturbing practices of harvesting fetal body parts from late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and the deplorable actions of late-term abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, convicted of murder and other crimes committed while performing abortions, have shocked our nation and led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures," he wrote. "All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in clinics, like Gosnell's, that abort children after 20 weeks."
Dolan ended: "On behalf of our country and the children whose lives are at stake, I urge you to support the common-sense reform offered by H.R. 36 and to oppose all weakening amendments."