Senator Lindsay Graham on Tuesday introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a nationwide ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
“The time has arrived in America, for us to understand, that at five months a baby feels excruciating pain if not protected,” said Senator Graham in a news conference after a Senate Judiciary hearing on the bill.
In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks, the bill ensures protections for babies born alive after an attempted abortion. Although the bill contains exceptions to the ban in the cases of rape or health of the mother, the bill states that any abortion procedure on a viable baby must have present a doctor trained in neonatal resuscitation. Any abortion survivor must be transferred to a hospital and given appropriate medical care.
Senator Graham based the bill on the scientific evidence that preborn babies are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks of gestation. “I would ask the opponents of this bill to dispute the fact that anesthesia is provided routinely to a child who is in the 5th month of the pregnancy, to protect the child from the pain that would occur to save its life through surgery,” he said according to CBN.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute, in their fact sheet on fetal pain gathered from peer-reviewed scientific data, point out that the neurophysiology of the preborn child at that age has all the pain-sensory mechanisms, including pain receptors in the skin and mucosal surfaces. “Connections between the spinal cord and the thalamus (which functions in pain perception in fetuses as well as in adults) are relatively complete by 20 weeks,” they state.
Senator Graham has introduced this bill or one similar every year since 2013. Although it has never received the 60 votes necessary for cloture, there is some hope that if enacted, it could now be upheld in an inevitable legal challenge due to the majority conservative Supreme Court. “I’m not under any illusion here, getting 60 votes will be difficult any time soon, but this is a journey worth taking,” said Graham to reporters. Graham also said that Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, may be willing to sign on to the bill.
Executive Director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Donna Harrison, spoke at the bill’s hearing on Tuesday. She asserted that the responses to painful stimuli are almost indistinguishable from those of a newborn. “It is scientific fact that 20-week babies are very sensitive to pain,” said Harrison. “They react the same way that you do. They withdraw from painful stimuli, they release stress hormones, their heart rate increases, and their breathing increases.”
The United States is one of only seven nations that allow abortion after 20 weeks. Recent polls show that most Americans support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
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