WASHINGTON, D.C., May 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On the one-year anniversary of Dr. Kermit Gosnell's conviction of murdering newborn babies, Republican senators and pro-life experts pushed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote on a national ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
Late-term abortion causes physical pain to unborn babies, increases the risks of harming women, and allies the United States with international pariahs like North Korea, they said in a press conference today to support the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1670).
The bill, introduced by Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, passed the House of Representatives last summer. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced the bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate last November, where it has stalled ever since.
Graham offered Reid a compromise: bring both his bill and Sen. Richard Blumenthal's Women's Health Protection Act, which would radically expand abortion-on-demand, before senators.
“Senator Blumenthal has a bill that’s really a top priority of the pro-choice community, so let’s have a vote on both,” he said. “I think the topic’s worthy of debate. … He said every senator needs to be on the record. I agree with that.”
Pro-life experts said abortions after 20 weeks cause unborn babies excruciating pain.
“I am standing here today to share with you what embryology textbooks and peer-reviewed scientific studies have unequivocally proven: babies at 20 weeks post-fertilization can perceive and experience pain. This is a matter of biology, not a matter of belief or wishful thinking,” said Arina Grossu, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.
“Between 20 and 30 weeks post-fertilization, an unborn child has more pain receptors per square inch of skin than at any other time in his or her life, with only a very thin layer of skin for protection, leaving nerve fibers closer to the surface. Mechanisms that inhibit or moderate the experience of pain do not begin to develop until 32 to 34 weeks post-fertilization.”
But pro-life concern is not just for babies. Women, they said, also suffer because of late-term abortions.
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“In an increasingly health-conscious society, why does abortion lack a ‘warning label?’” asked Jeanneane Maxon, Americans United for Life's vice president for external affairs and corporate counsel. “A woman seeking an abortion at 20 weeks – five months of pregnancy – is 35 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester. At 21 weeks or more, she is 91 times more likely to die from abortion than she was in the first trimester.”
“The kind of common-sense legislation that we are discussing today is not only the majority view across the country” but “in line with the values of the international community. Most nations limit abortions between 12 and 16 weeks,” she said.
Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, underscored that America is an outlier on this issue. “A study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute has shown that the United States is one of just seven countries worldwide that permits abortion beyond 20 weeks, or when an unborn baby feels pain. The other countries include; China, North Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, and the Netherlands.”
Graham said, “My goal is to make sure when this is over, there are six” countries that allow the practice.
But first, the bill has to come to the Senate for a vote. Today, Reid again dismissed the bill. “As we know [Graham has] got a difficult primary down there and he keeps moving further to the Right,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.” Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, joined in a scathing speech on the floor Tuesday afternoon, saying that the bill “is not going anywhere here in the Senate, and they know it is a cheap political ploy.”
Graham offered the bill along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is also facing a primary from a conservative, pro-life challenger.
But for the pro-life advocates who stood at today's press conference, politics has nothing to do with the matter. “It’s time Congress, especially Majority Leader Harry Reid, acknowledges that a call to moral principle trumps a party agenda,” Nance said.
Advocates across the country hope the bill will enjoy bipartisan support, something critical if the bill will ever see the light of day. They have pressed vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a stand on the bill, a call that was renewed today.
Mike Fichter, president and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, called on Sen. Joe Donnelly to become a co-sponsor. “Sen. Donnelly has long-claimed to be a pro-life advocate,” Fichter said of the Democrat. “Now is his opportunity to prove it.”
Last month, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said he supports the bill but has not yet become a co-sponsor.
President Barack Obama has promised to veto the measure, which contains exceptions for rape and incest, if it ever reaches his desk.
If it were enacted into law, the bill would save between 10,000 and 15,000 unborn children a year, according to varying estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Guttmacher Institute.
It would not affect the vast majority of abortions, which are performed before 20 weeks.