US House Passes 20-Week Late-Term Abortion Ban by Vote of 242-184

A visitor reaches for a pro-life bumper sticker the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 14, 2013. | (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives voted 242-184 Wednesday to pass a bill that will ban most late term abortions after 20 weeks gestation, fulfilling a campaign promise to the pro-life movement.

Lawmakers held the vote for H.R. 36, the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" on the second anniversary of the conviction of late-term Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. The bill would ban abortions after five months of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and incest if the woman receives counseling 48 hours prior to having an abortion.

Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., in January, members of the House were expected to vote on the bill on Jan. 22, which was the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

However, many Republicans expressed concern about the lack of exemptions in the bill for rape and the health of the mother; subsequently, the bill was delayed.

Instead, so as to appeal to their pro-life constituents, House Republicans passed a bill banning federal funding for the abortion procedure save in the event of rape, incest, or life of the mother.

Even before debate officially began on the bill, representatives both in support and opposition to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act expressed their views during general speeches.

Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., recalled the horrors found in Gosnell's late term abortion clinic.

"It seems that some members of this body want to regulate things like light bulbs and rainwater and farm dust, but leave women helpless before the doctor Gosnells of the world," said Pitts.

"Late term abortionists are driven by profit undeterred by the painful death of countless innocent lives. We must protect these women and children by passing the bill."

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., argued that the pro-life bill was driven by people who "don't believe [women] are smart enough or moral enough to make our life changing decisions."

Also speaking against the bill, Rep. Steven Cohen, D-Tenn., said the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act "isn't about pain, it's about viability," asserting that a baby at that stage of life cannot live outside the womb, and therefore whether or it not can feel pain is inconsequential.

Now passed by the House, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will next go to the Republican majority Senate and then to President Barack Obama, who in the past has threatened a veto.

If Obama veto's the bill, which is expected, lawmakers can override his veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each Chamber so that it can become law.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., who cosponsored, H.R. 36, said in a statement to CP that a November 2014 poll from Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks.

Regardless of one's views on abortion, majorities of Americans agree that the gruesome killing of unborn children at five months — who can feel pain — should be barred. The United States is one of only seven nations to allow abortion on-demand after 20 weeks, placing us in the company of human-rights violators such as China and North Korea," said Hultgren."

Speaking about the vote being held on the anniversary of Gosnell's conviction, Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, noted on Wednesday, that the murder trial held two years ago "opened our eyes to heartbreaking realities in the abortion industry."

"Gosnell sits in jail because his reckless incompetence led him to kill premature babies born alive, but at least 140 other late-term abortion doctors continue to legally abort 18,000 babies annually past 20 weeks by industry approved techniques like dismemberment, or 'D&E,'" added Ferguson.

"A study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that premature infants, born at 20 weeks post-fertilization (equivalent to 22 weeks gestation) can and do survive outside the womb," she continued.

"There is abundant scientific evidence and near universal scientific agreement that babies at this stage are capable of feeling pain. Overwhelming majorities of Americans recognize the humanity and human rights of a premature baby, and are opposed to the violence inherent in late-term abortion."

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