WASHINGTON, D.C., May 8, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — More than three months after failing to bring a national 20-week abortion ban to a vote, the Republican House leadership has scheduled a vote next week on the bill that would prohibit most late-term abortions.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced this morning that the House will vote on H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, according to the Weekly Standard.
Previously H.R. 36, the bill had been projected to pass the House during this year’s March for Life in late January, but was stalled by concerns from Reps. Renee Ellmers, Jackie Walorski, and some other GOP House members, who objected because the bill only permitted late-term abortion if a rape victim reported the crime to police before aborting her child.
Pro-life activists said removing this provision would force officials to rely on abortionists' word that the children they aborted were the product of rape.
After anticipating the support of Republicans for the legislation, based in part by their having said it was a top priority, pro-life leaders reacted strongly, calling Republican’s discarding the bill a betrayal and sabotage.
Eight pro-life activists, including blogger Jill Stanek, Operation Rescue's Troy Newman, and Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, were arrested on Capitol Hill during a protest on March 25. Fourteen pro-life groups protested at House Speaker John Boehner’s office again yesterday.
House Republicans say the reporting requirement has been taken out of the bill, and instead it now requires abortionists to ensure that victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling a minimum of 48 hours prior to the late-term abortion.
The change has gotten support from some national pro-life groups, while it's earning strong criticism from others.
“For months, the pro-life grassroots have rallied around our champions in Congress by generating thousands of calls to bring the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act up for a vote,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “We are thankful to our pro-life allies on the Hill, including House GOP leadership and the Congressional Pro-Life Women’s Caucus, who have tirelessly worked to bring this bill to a vote. This process has yielded a strong bill which we expect to pass next week with enthusiastic bipartisan support.”
Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins backed the legislation as well.
“This bill will prohibit late abortion on unborn babies after five months after fertilization due to unborn babies' ability to feel pain,” he said in a statement. “The updated bill includes care and protection for women and girls who are victims of rape, while holding abortionists accountable for late term abortions.”
“FRC fully supports this bill, and commends the hard work of Members of Congress to strengthen this bill. I urge the House to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and send it on to the Senate expeditiously,” Perkins said.
However, Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived in rape and is president of the pro-life group Save the One, decried the fact that the bill still contains an exception for rape victims. “I'm completely appalled that children like me who were conceived in rape are still targeted within the current Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” she said. “We are in fact capable of feeling pain like everyone else. Congress needs to focus on punishing rapists instead of innocent children.”
Pro-life leader Larry Cirgnano also criticized the bill, noting that babies conceived in rape can feel pain just as strongly as others.
“It is supposed to be about protecting babies who can feel pain, and babies, whose fathers may have been a rapist, can still feel pain,” he said. “Rape exceptions violate equal protection and deny due process. We look forward to the day when all women can be protected and all pre-born children have their dignity respected from creation until natural death.”
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Senator Lindsey Graham has sponsored a companion bill to this year’s 20-week abortion ban in the Senate, and indicated he will continue to work toward its passage. President Obama has vowed to veto the pain-capable protection legislation.
While consensus on this week’s new pain-capable legislation was reached among House members, Stanek commented on her blog about differences among pro-lifers who wanted the rape and incest exception removed from it altogether, and also those who wanted the reporting requirement removed from the rape and incest exception.
“Ultimately the compromise reached semi-removes (for adults only) the reporting requirement,” Stanek said, “replacing it with a doctor/counseling requirement, and adds new language making the bill ultimately stronger than ever. The new language will make committing late-term abortions with exceptions very unappealing to the slime who would commit them in the first place.”
The new House bill also has some additional provisions, according to the Weekly Standard, that Republicans say seek to protect the lives of infants and the well-being of their mothers.
They include protections for babies born alive in the abortion process, an informed consent form for women seeking an abortion that describes the law and the gestational age of the child in the womb, and empowerment of mothers with a civil right of action against abortion providers who fail to comply with the law.
The new provisions deal with issues stemming from the case of Philadelphia “House of Horrors” abortionist Kermit Gosnell, convicted of murder for killing children born alive at his abortion mill.
The House vote is expected on or around the two-year anniversary of Gosnell’s May 13, 2013, conviction.
Dustin Siggins contributed to this report.