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As the GOP-led House of Representatives prepares to vote on H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, on Thursday – the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion-on-demand legal in the U.S. – President Barack Obama put both houses on notice that he will use his veto pen to strike down any attempt to restrict abortions.

“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 36, which would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose,” the White House said in a statement.  “Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and Government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.” 

H.R. 36 would ban most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, when medical experts have testified that unborn babies’ nervous systems have developed enough for them to feel pain.  If passed, abortionists who violate the law would be subject to fines and up to 5 years’ prison time. 

An identical bill was passed by the U.S. House last session, but failed to gain traction in the Democratic-led Senate.  Now that the GOP controls both houses of Congress, it’s possible that the bill will eventually reach the president’s desk, but if he vetoes it, it will be a nearly insurmountable battle for Republicans to overturn the decision, as they lack the necessary 2/3 majority in the Senate.

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Some pro-life activists have criticized the bill because it contains exceptions for babies conceived by rape and incest.  In a recent op-ed, Gualberto Garcia Jones, national policy director for the Personhood Alliance asked, “Don’t these children deserve to have their life legally protected just as much as any other? Do we really believe that the law should allow an innocent child to be punished more severely than the rapist or the person committing incest?”

However, Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, disagreed. Calling on pro-lifers to support the bill, Nance wrote, “There is no perfect legislation,” and said H.R. 36 is a “thoughtful first step” in the right direction.

Thursday’s House vote will take place against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists marching on the U.S. Supreme Court to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and protest legalized abortion.  Polls have shown that a majority of Americans support the 20-week ban, and at least eight predicted contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination have endorsed the bill.