What do the United States and North Korea have in common?
Both countries, along with a few others, allow abortions after 20 weeks. Recently, the United States failed to remedy this situation. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act had bipartisan support, and President Trump promised to sign it should it come to his desk. Unfortunately, the bill never got that chance because the Senate failed to pass it.
Let’s take a look at how we got here.
In October 2017, the House approved the bill 237 to 189. While it was unlikely that Senate Republicans would get enough votes for the bill to pass, President Trump voiced his support for the bill during his speech at the 2018 March for Life. Currently, there are 21 states that protect life after 20 weeks in the womb, but there have been instances where courts have struck down state legislation, making a federal law that much more important.
Leading up to Monday night’s vote, supporters from both sides of the aisle urged the Senate to vote in favor of the bill. In a Newsweek op-ed, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, wrote that the bill “should receive widespread bipartisan support because it recognizes scientific and medical advances, affirms growing American opinion and catches our nation up with the rest of the world.” They continue:
Scientific and medical advances are telling us more and more about the womb and the viability of unborn life. Ultrasounds show unborn babies at five months of pregnancy sucking their thumb, yawning, stretching and making faces—detailed 3-D images that we haven’t seen until the last decade. In utero, these babies have 10 fingers, 10 toes, a beating heart and unique DNA that is different than the mom and the dad—they are humans that deserve the right to live. Thusly, this is a human rights issue.
Similarly, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) voiced his displeasure that U.S. abortion laws are similar to those of Vietnam, China, and North Korea, saying it pains him and should pain all Americans that “the United States lags so far behind the rest of the world in protecting unborn children.” After citing studies that show unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks, he concludes:
The takeaway from these studies is this: Science, at a minimum, suggests that unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks — can feel the abortionist’s knife and suction tube as it rips them apart in the womb. That possibility alone should have us rushing to ban abortion at 20 weeks.
Opponents were quick to dismiss these claims, saying that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on “junk science” and that this is really about women’s health (which is an ironic claim in a post-Gosnell world).
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) condemned the bill saying, “Republican leaders are debating whether to trust women to make their own health care choices.” This claim is odd in light of a recent study that found that almost 75% of women feel pressured to get an abortion.
The New York Times editorial board also bemoaned the fact that “Abortion providers, who already face harassment and threats to their lives and work, would face criminal penalties, with a sentence of up to five years, for performing abortions after 20 weeks.” Hopefully, The New York Times editorial board will soon regard life in the womb with the same respect they have for abortion providers.
The opponents of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act are ignoring scientific advancements and first-hand accounts of neonatologists who see babies experiencing pain in the womb. But it’s important to take a step back and ask another question: Why is the incapability of feeling pain grounds for discarding a life in the womb? If the inability to feel pain makes you less-than-human, someone should probably tell these people.
Opponents of the bill also essentially voted against protecting lives like Charlotte Ryun who was born at 24 weeks (four weeks after the proposed ban, for those who are counting) due to medical circumstances. It’s easy to imagine the trauma that her parents Ned and Becca Ryun (Becca is an old family friend of mine) must have gone through. Here’s what Ned had to say about the experience:
Several doctors visited the room in those early hours of the 4th [of November], giving us the odds of Charlotte’s survival, and the significant chances of brain damage, blindness, and long-term health problems. We’d already been asked if we wanted to revive her should she come out not breathing, and three times it had been suggested that we might want to consider ending the pregnancy. You say you believe certain things, but when confronted with actual decisions, you authenticate and validate your belief system, or destroy it, by what you actually do. My wife, Becca, and I refused to even consider the thought of ending Charlotte’s life and we told the doctors and nurses they were to make their best efforts to revive Charlotte should she not be breathing when she was delivered.
Both Becca and Charlotte are happy and healthy today. Many Senators such as Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), along with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted against the bill that would have protected vulnerable lives. The United States should be better than this, and most voters agree.
While opponents of this bill continue to hold on to outdated ideas and seek to punish those who disagree with them, Alliance Defending Freedom is committed to protecting the sanctity of life, and continues to do so thanks to your generous support. Together, we can take steps to ensure that life in the womb is protected.