This week, the House will vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). This legislation would protect unborn children by preventing abortions 20 weeks after conception, at which time scientific evidence suggests the child can feel pain. In 2015, a similar bill passed the House by a 242-184 vote.
In her report "Defending Life: Opportunities for the 115th Congress," research associate in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation Melanie Israel writes:
Congress should pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect women and unborn children from gruesome late-term abortions performed after 20 weeks. The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortion past 20 weeks (5 months), at which point scientific evidence suggests that the baby is capable of feeling excruciating pain during an abortion procedure. A poll released in January 2017 found that 74 percent of Americans want abortion restricted to, at most, the first trimester. At the state level, over a dozen states across the country have enacted 20-week bills. Congress is overdue to pass the bill at the federal level.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that passing this bill could potentially save 10,000 lives each year-a number widely considered to be on the conservative side. As Rep. Franks has explained in sponsoring the bill, "More than 18,000 'very late term' abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America," explaining these lives are often taken "torturously."
More than a dozen states have implemented similar legislation so far, and the time has come to protect the sanctity of life at the national level. Our representatives have a responsibility to push this debate into the political forefront. By refusing to shy away from tough votes and embracing the pro-life principles on which many were elected, members can save thousands of innocent lives. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy explained in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, "The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb."
This legislation should not represent an aberration on the congressional voting record, but rather should mark the beginning of a true fight on behalf of the unborn. Israel concludes in her report: "With pro-life majorities in the House and Senate, and a President who has committed to defend innocent life, Congress has the opportunity of a generation. Passing key pro-life legislation should be among the highest priorities in the 115th Congress."
The Heritage Foundation: Defending Life: Opportunities for the 115th Congress (2017)