U.S. House to consider a 20-week abortion ban, but NARAL cries “senseless attack”


U.S. Representative Trent Franks (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

U.S. Representative Trent Franks. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr)

Late last week, Republican Representative Trent Franks (Arizona) announced that he would reintroduce a modified bill to ban late-term abortions. His bill would ban abortions around the nation after 20 weeks* – a time when science has proven that the unborn can feel pain and also at a time that fits with the modern standards of viability.

Franks first reintroduced the bill on April 26, 2013, after the House passed it last year. As originally written, the bill would outlaw abortion 20 weeks and later after conception only in the District of Columbia, but Franks pledged on Friday to amend the bill to extend the ban across the country.

The House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will have a hearing on Franks’s proposed legislation this Thursday, May 23. Franks explained the reasons behind his bill:

I know when the subject is related in any way to abortion, the doors of reason and human compassion in our minds and hearts often close, and the humanity of the unborn can no longer be seen. But I pray we can at least come together to agree that we can and should draw the line at the point that these innocent babies can feel the excruciating pain of these brutal procedures.

The case of Kermit Gosnell shocked the sensibilities of millions of Americans. However, the crushing fact is that abortions on babies just like the ones killed by Kermit Gosnell have been happening hundreds of times per day, every single day, for the past 40 years. Indeed, let us not forget that, had Kermit Gosnell dismembered these babies before they had traveled down the birth canal only moments earlier, he would have, in many places nationwide, been performing an entirely legal procedure. If America truly understands that horrifying reality, hearts and laws will change.

Franks’s bill details just how an unborn child feels pain after 20 weeks:

Pain receptors (nociceptors) are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and sub-cortical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization.

By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.

In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response.

Subjection to such painful stimuli is associated with long-term harmful neurodevelopmental effects, such as altered pain sensitivity and, possibly, emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities later in life.

For the purposes of surgery on unborn children, fetal anesthesia is routinely administered and is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli are applied without such anesthesia.

Despite the facts surrounding fetal pain, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue is calling Franks’s bill a “senseless attack.” In another odd statement, she claims that Kermit Gosnell was “convicted of murder for performing illegal abortions that resulted in killing of infants and women.” Not so.

First, Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder against babies whom he murdered outside the womb. Abortion occurs inside the womb. Does Hogue want to extend abortion to babies already born?

Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL

Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL.

Secondly, Gosnell was convicted not of murder for an illegal abortion that resulted in the killing of a woman. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, but her abortion was actually legal – it was performed in the second trimester, right around 16 weeks.

Hogue’s opposition to a national late-term abortion ban is what is truly senseless. Yet it’s clear that her goal is neither to be honest nor sensible when speaking with the American public. Any bill that would save the life of a baby who could potentially survive on her own can hardly be considered senseless, pointless, or an attack. It’s just the opposite.

*Franks’s bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy calculated by the LMP (last menstrual period) method. This is why his bill meets modern standards of viability. While rare, babies have recently survived even prior to 22 weeks of pregnancy – namely, Frieda Mangold, born in 2010, and James Elgin Gill, born in 1987.

Interestingly, James survived at this age 26 years ago – before a 22-week-old baby was considered viable. How many other babies born early could survive if given the fighting chance that Hogue would rather deny them? James’s parents fought for his life, and live he did. His mother says:

They said, “We have something to tell you. If you have the baby right now there’s no possible chance that the baby will survive.” I said, “You’re wrong because mine is.”

If only all mothers – and fathers – had this perspective on their children.

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