Pain-Capable Abortion: It’s Time for the Senate to Act

In 2016, conservative pro-life voters went to the polls to give the GOP yet another chance. Was it in vain?

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on October 5, 2017

Republicans in the House have taken seriously the mandate given them by the voters and the pro-life promises they made to obtain their own seats in office. Earlier this week, the House passed legislation that would ban abortion on an unborn child after it is 20 weeks old. The bill obtained three Democratic votes and lost two GOPers. 

One of the most moving moments of the debate on the House floor came when U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) “brought a giant poster of her grandchild’s 17-week ultrasound onto the House floor, explaining her heartbeat began three weeks after conception and she began kicking her mother at seven weeks old.” The photo was not of some Playdough-like lump but clearly showed the outline of a face. A baby’s face.

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This is a victory of substance, not symbolism. The White House immediately said President Trump would sign the measure into law if it passes the Senate.

Why is this so important? Because it is indisputable that at 20 weeks, an unborn child feels pain. As the White House’s Statement of Administration Policy notes,

the bill would promote a science-based approach to unborn life, as recent advancements have revealed that the physical structures necessary to experience pain are developed within 20 weeks of fertilization. The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. America’s children deserve the stronger protections that H.R. 36 would advance.

Who’s Anti-Science?

One of the Left’s most frequent lines of attack against the GOP is that Republicans are “anti-science.” Yet there is virtually no question that an unborn child, at 20 weeks, feels pain. Intensely. 

As my distinguished former colleague Arina Grossu, the Director of Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, noted in her 2016 study, “What Science Reveals About Fetal Pain,” “The instruction of medical textbooks and accepted common medical practice is to administer fetal anesthesia before an in-utero surgery on the unborn child around 20 weeks post-fertilization. The common practice is based on the science of fetal development.” 

There is virtually no question that an unborn child, at 20 weeks, feels pain. Intensely.

Arina’s point is underscored by Claire Chretien at Lifesite News: “At 20 weeks — halfway through pregnancy — an unborn baby is the size of a small cantaloupe. Mothers can feel their babies kicking. When they are operated on in the womb at this age, it’s standard medical practice to give the babies anesthesia. However, it’s still legal to dismember them in violent, painful abortions.”

Slow in the Senate

U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is introducing legislation mirroring the House bill in the Senate. And now the “world’s greatest deliberative body” is poised to act and take a bold, science-based, and morally right stance for life. Right?

On Monday of this week, “GOP Whip Sen. John Cornyn was asked … if the chamber would take up the legislation. ‘That’s not a near-term priority,’ Cornyn replied.” The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Washington Examiner, “Graham’s bill hasn’t been scheduled” for a vote.

In an interview in late September with FOX News’ Sean Hannity, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that his chamber had passed pro-life and other vital measures, but “We haven’t gotten them over the finish line in the Senate. Is that frustrating for the House? You bet it is frustrating for the House.”

Not just the House, Mr. Speaker, but for the tens of millions of Americans who are weary of excuses and noises about “Senate rules.” I get that the Senate is not supposed to react as quickly as the House. I worked in the Senate for three years. It was designed by the Founders to deliberate more slowly than the “popular chamber.”

But deliberation has become an excuse for dysfunction. As I’ve written previously in The Stream, the days of droll discussion in the “upper body” are long past.

Are Senate rules requiring a three-fifths majority really the issue, anyway? I’m a great fan of prudence, but caution without courage is cowardice. 

GOP Senators: This Is Your Chance

If the Republican Senate leaders are hesitant to hold a vote on the Pain-Capable bill for fear of losing it, they need to change the rules of their body. Not only for the sake of the unborn and the women who carry them, but for the sake of a nation with a deeply wounded conscience.

There are few, if any, causes in the United States more noble that protecting unborn persons and defending their mothers from the predatory abortion industry.

This cause motivates serious Christians across denominational lines, including Evangelical Protestants.

According to a July 2017 study by Pew Research, 70 percent of Evangelical Christians believe “abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.” From my own pretty wide experience in the Evangelical community, I suspect that number is low. It likely would go up if those surveyed were asked about the kinds of limits on abortion there should be.

With that said, better than 80 percent of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. They composed about 25 percent of all voters in the 2016 presidential election. And many voted for the President, observes Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post, because of “his promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.”

So conservative pro-life voters went to the polls in 2016 to give the GOP yet another chance. A chance to put its votes, its claims to moral bravery, and its promises of leadership to a test it would not fail.

President Trump has not failed. The House has not failed. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn: Will you? If you do fail, the voters who placed you in office will make defeating wavering GOP Senators a near-term priority next year.

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