On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee considered S. 1553, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. S. 1553 mirrors Texas legislation in House Bill 2, the Pro-Life Omnibus Bill of 2013, which protects most pain-capable preborn children from the excruciating torture of late elective abortion at twenty weeks of gestation and beyond. In Congress, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed the House last May by a margin of 242-184; however, the bill failed to invoke cloture in the Senate and was defeated by a 54-42 vote in September.
Thus far, only individual states – including Texas – have been successful in protecting some pain-capable preborn children from late abortions. In fact, the prohibition in HB 2 is the only provision of the law which has not faced legal challenges from the abortion industry. The abortion industry knows that challenging the constitutionality of the legislation would only cement the Pro-Life position in legal precedent.
This is because the Supreme Court has established a precedent of forbidding individual states from banning abortions “pre-viability,” but refused to define when viability officially begins – and the widely-accepted viability benchmark of 24 weeks gestation is defied on a daily basis by children thriving as early as 20 or 21 weeks where modern medical technology is available to them. Furthermore, the science of preborn pain was not as well understood or documented when the viability criteria went into effect decades ago, and scientific consensus on the matter would further undercut abortion activists’ efforts to overturn such bans. In other words, a legal challenge in states that prohibit abortion past 20 weeks would likely lose and remove a legal pillar of Roe v. Wade.
Opponents of the federal Pro-Life measure, S. 1553, including Democrat Dianne Feinstein and invited witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, cite unfounded fears that protecting the preborn by banning elective abortions after 20 weeks will lead to an uptick in dangerous, self-induced abortion attempts. These pundits consistently conjure up images of pre-RoeAmerica when, according to their revisionist history, women died in droves due to lack of so-called “safe,” legal abortion on-demand.
On the contrary, however, this caricature of American history is inaccurate, and recent “studies” purporting to confirm these fears of dangerous self-induced abortions in the modern day have been thoroughly debunked. Nevertheless, baseless fear-mongering remains the sole tactic of abortion lobbyists and legislators preventing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from seeing success in both chambers of Congress.
Further emphasizing the extreme nature of the abortion lobby’s arguments for unfettered access to elective abortion at any stage of pregnancy is the outspoken presence of abortion survivors who consistently testify at judicial hearings on abortion. On Tuesday, abortion survivor Melissa Ohden attended the hearing as an invited witness. Ohden shared her experience of being forcibly aborted by her grandmother – a nurse – in a saline abortion. The attempt failed, and five days after the abortion was initiated Ohden was born alive, weighing only two pounds. Ohden is now a mother and an outspoken advocate for the preborn. She considers herself a “face” of the preborn children whose lives hang in the balance when abortion-related legislation is considered.
At the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he supports the bill because America is one of only seven nations in the world that permits the gruesome practice of late abortions. We’re “trying to get out of that club, quite frankly,” he said.
Much remains to be done to protect all preborn Life. Even in Texas, which does not allow abortions after 20 weeks, babies diagnosed with an abnormality are an exception. Simply because of their disability, babies are subjected to the tortuous pain of late abortions. Furthermore, while science demonstrates that babies after 20 weeks undeniably feel the pain of abortion, children at much earlier stages of development have brainwaves and react to stimuli, suggesting they, too, might feel the excruciating pain of suction and dismemberment abortions.
Despite the need for further protections in the law, the federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is an important step toward affirming the dignity of the most vulnerable members of our society.