Legislators who advocate abortion rights for U.S. women added another victory July 31 as a bill to ban the procedure in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks of gestation, failed to clear the House of Representatives.

The D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, (H.R. 3803), was introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and it failed, on a vote of 220-154 vote, to attract the 249 votes needed for passage. The bill would have targeted abortions in the District of Columbia.

“More than 325 late-term abortions are performed every single day in America,” said Franks in a statement released Aug. 1. “What we are doing to babies is real, it is barbaric in the purest sense of the word, it is the greatest human rights violation occurring on U.S. soil, and it has already victimized potentially millions of pain-capable babies since the Supreme Court gave us all abortion-on-demand that tragic day in 1973.”

The bill’s language says pain can be felt by unborn children at 20 weeks. According to abortion advocates, the sense can’t fully be developed at this time without complete nerve connections between the cerebral cortex and the thalamus.

The pro-choice argument is made even though legislative findings in the bill state that surgery on unborn babies at 20 weeks is usually done with fetal anesthesia. When anesthetics are used, the presence of stress hormones drop lower than when surgical procedures are done with no medication.

According to the bill, children who are actually born with disorders that prevent the same nerve ending connections from ever forming can and do feel pain.

“Pain receptors (nociceptors) are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and sub-cortical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization,” says page three of the bill.

“By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.”

Still opponents of the legislation said the proposed legislation is is yet another attempt to make it harder to access the service safely.

“Once again, anti-choice leaders in the House continue their obsession with attacking a woman’s right to choose,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “This extreme legislation would have imposed cruel restriction on women facing unimaginable circumstances.”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer