by Hannah Snoeyink, correspondent
The United States House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on Tuesday, October 3. This act bans abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy with a couple of exceptions. Should this bill become law, physicians who attempt to perform abortions after this point in development will receive a fine and/or up to five years in prison.
In the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said, “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb.”
Studies have shown that when exposed to painful stimuli, unborn children who have reached at least 20 weeks of development recoil as if writhing in pain. This is due to the fact that their pain receptors link to the thalamus and subcortical plate in their brains at this point of development. Pain also results in an increase in their stress hormones and can result in neurodevelopmental consequences later on in their lives. Doctors responded to this research by anesthetizing unborn children before they undergo in utero surgeries.
Right now, roughly 15,000 abortions are performed each year, a figure that constitutes about one percent of the United States’ total annual procedures. While opponents of the bill have begun to label it an “abortion ban,” it will not come close to entirely outlawing the practice in the United States even if it does pass in the Senate.
Representative Martha Roby said, “My question to those who would oppose this bill is this: what’s the difference between a baby born at six months outside the womb, and a baby at six months inside the womb? How can one be treated like a miracle they’re created to be, and the other treated like medical waste?”
Exceptions to this legislation are pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother or those that are the result of rape or incest. Even in these cases, a neonatal resuscitation specialist must be present to attempt to save the child during the procedure.
Opponents of this bill argue that the qualifications for exception are too narrow, ignoring many serious health complications that can worsen during pregnancy. They also protest that the ban is based on illegitimate science and that pain cannot truly be experienced until the third trimester, when the sophisticated part of the brain is more developed.
According to the bill, women who undergo the illegal abortions after 20 weeks into their pregnancies will not be prosecuted as it is aimed at the physicians who perform them.
The bill passed in the House of Representatives two weeks ago by a vote of 237-189. Its next destination is the Senate, which has 52 Republicans in support of the bill, according to majority leader Mitch McConnell. In a formal statement, President Trump promised to sign the bill.
It will be a battle for the Republican Party to get the bill through the Senate, as they need 60 votes in order to do so. Representative Karen Handel argued in resounding support of the bill, “It is a moral bill to do what we are called—not just as Americans, but called as human beings: to protect the lives of the most innocent”
The bill reached the Senate on October 4th, and is yet to be voted upon.