The Republican-led House Tuesday passed a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, approved by a vote of 228 to 196, comes in the wake of gruesome details that emerged during the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering babies born during the late-term procedures. The trial highlighted medical evidence about fetal development and their ability to feel pain beyond 20 weeks.
Supporters of the bill cited the Gosnell trial during the floor debate.
“I, like all Americans, was disgusted to learn of the horrific and illegal abortion procedures performed by Kermit Gosnell,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said after the vote. “By banning abortion after 20 weeks, today’s bill will save the lives of innocent children from enduring the excruciatingly painful death of a late abortion.”
The bill has virtually no chance of advancing beyond the House because the Democratically led Senate will not bring it to the floor and President Obama has vowed to veto the measure.
Democrats cited the bill as evidence of a GOP war on women. Rep. Lois Slaughter, D-N.Y., pointed out that an all-male panel marked up the legislation in committee, just as an all-male committee held a hearing last year on on health insurance coverage of women’s contraception.
“Women of America, keep those two panels before your mind forever,” Slaughter said. “Those are the deciders.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, said the bill would criminalize abortions and punish doctors “for doing their jobs” when they perform abortions on women “with serious health concerns.”
The bill calls for a minimum 5-year prison sentence for anyone who performs an abortion after 20 weeks.
Republicans, however, added a provision that would allow late-term abortions to be performed when the health of the mother is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.
Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., said the bill would endanger pregnant women who developed high blood pressure, aggressive cancer or other illnesses that could require terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks..
“In the midst of these difficult decisions, they need to be able to consult their families and their doctors…but most certainly not their politicians,” she said.
Republicans who came to the floor to argue in favor of the bill continually cited the need to protect unborn life.
“There is a lot of talk about rights here,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said. “But very little talk about the right to life of the babies being aborted.”