US Senate takes up 20-week Abortion Ban after House Passage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R- IA) last week joined Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as well as other Senate colleagues and pro-life leaders to formally introduce the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

The legislation would provide common-sense protections for unborn children at 20 weeks after fertilization, a point at which there is significant scientific evidence that abortion inflicts tremendous pain on these vulnerable human beings. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable legislation by a vote of 237-189.

The Senate version has 45 cosponsors including including Senators John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, Mike Crapo, Ted Cruz, Steve Daines, Joni Ernst, Mike Enzi, Jeff Flake, Deb Fischer, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, John Hoeven, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Ron Johnson, John Kennedy, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, David Perdue, Rob Portman, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Mike Rounds, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Richard Shelby, Luther Strange, Dan Sullivan, John Thune, Thom Tillis, Pat Toomey, Roger Wicker, and Todd Young.

While the bill is a strong move in defense of life, it does come with loopholes that negate some of the principles that the legislation stands upon.

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For instance, the bill includes exceptions for rape as long as the pregnant woman receives counseling or medical treatment at least 48 hours prior to the procedure. Rape exceptions are common among abortion regulation proposals, but a full 20 weeks of gestation before the procedure is banned would seem more than sufficient for a victim of rape to identify a pregnancy and make such a soul-wrenching decision.

Below are the highlights of the bill:

  • The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would make it illegal for any person to perform, or attempt to perform, an abortion without first making a determination of the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child.
  • If the post-fertilization age of the unborn child is determined to be 20 weeks or greater, an abortion shall not be performed, unless –
    • It is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman;
    • The pregnancy is a result of rape and the woman has received medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours prior to the abortion; or if she chooses to do so, has made a report to law enforcement; or
    • The pregnancy is a result of rape or incest against a minor and the abuse is reported to either social services or law enforcement.

In the case of the exceptions –

  • the abortion may only proceed in a manner that provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive unless that would pose a greater risk of death or serious bodily injury to the pregnant woman; and
  • the abortion provider must receive informed consent from the pregnant woman, certifying that she has been provided the child’s gestational age, a description of the law, and her rights under the law.

A woman on whom an abortion was performed in violation of this Act may bring a civil action against the abortion provider in court to recover damages.

Abortion doctors are required to submit annual data to the National Center for Health and Statistics providing statistical information about abortions carried out after 20 weeks post-fertilization age.

The criminal punishment for a violation of this Act is imprisonment of up to five years, fines, or both.

The Act makes clear that a woman who receives an illegal abortion in violation of this act may not be prosecuted.

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