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'Many of them cry and scream as they die,' said bill sponsor Trent Franks, R-AZ, of babies aborted late in pregnancy, many at the point when they could even survive outside the womb. Shutterstock
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Nationwide ban on abortions after 20 weeks introduced in House

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As many as 18,000 children are aborted annually late in pregnancy in the U.S., but such babies will be protected by law if two Republican Congressmen have their way.

Trent Franks, R-AZ, and Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, introduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R.36) in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. The bill institutes a national ban on all abortions on babies who are 20 weeks or older, in order to prevent fetal pain.

“More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America,” Franks said, adding that the babies are “torturously killed without even basic anesthesia.”

“Many of them cry and scream as they die, but because it is amniotic fluid going over their vocal cords instead of air, we don’t hear them,” he said.

Congresswoman Blackburn said the bill must become law, because Americans “have a moral obligation to end dangerous late-term abortions in order to protect women and these precious babies from criminals like Kermit Gosnell and others who prey on the most vulnerable in our society. The United States is one of the few remaining countries in the world that allows abortion after 20 weeks.”

The Congressional Budget Office and the Guttmacher Institute issued separate estimates that the bill would save between 10,000 and 15,000 unborn children a year.

The bill has already been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. It is likely to pass both chambers of the Republican-controlled Congress.

This will be the second time sponsors have attempted to get the bill through the halls of Capitol.

The ban on fetal pain passed the House by a 228-196 vote on June 18, 2013. Nearly five months later, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, introduced the bill in the Senate, then under Democratic control, where it never saw the light of day. Graham, who had been facing a primary challenge from his party's right flank, went on to win re-election handily.

New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has promised a vote on the bill, saying that “a clear majority of women nationwide [are] in support of this common-sense legislation.”

Its provisions, however, are unlikely to become law before 2017 at the earliest. President Obama has promised to veto the bill, which he said “shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”

The concept of ending late-term abortion enjoys broad public support – particularly if the baby can feel excruciating pain. A poll taken last November by Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support the legislation's goals, including 56 percent of Independents and nearly half (46 percent) of Democrats.

Polls have shown that women and young people are more likely to support the legislation than men and older people. In all, 13 states have enacted similar bans on their own.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised Franks' and Marshburn's “bold leadership” for introducing the proposal, adding that she was “encouraged to see our pro-life allies wasting no time in the fight to protect the lives of the most vulnerable.”

She said that the bill protects only those babies “more than halfway through pregnancy.”

“It is time to move the United States off the list of only seven countries to allow abortion on demand beyond this point,” she said. “A federal law is long overdue, and this Congress now has a clear mandate from the American people.”

Feminist activists decried the bill for the same reasons. “If you’re really worried about those fetuses you want to pretend feel actual pain, maybe start supporting abortion being covered by insurance – making first trimester abortions more easily obtained,” according to a writer at The Frisky, who also encouraged Republicans to “support getting rid of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents abortion being covered by Medicaid. Not to mention supporting subsidized birth control to prevent them from being a necessity in the first place.”

The landslide 2014 midterm elections should make the bill a slam-dunk, legislatively speaking.

Rep. Franks said his bill “is one all humane Americans can support if they understand it for themselves.”

“Throughout America's history, the hearts of the American people have been moved with compassion when they discover a theretofore hidden class of victims, once they grasp both the humanity of the victims and the inhumanity of what is being done to them,” Franks said. “America is on the cusp of another such realization.”

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