‘Pain-Capable’ 20-Week Abortion Ban Introduced in the House

Joining Rep. Chris Smith were 142 members of the House, who co-sponsored his bill on Monday.

A baby's face in the womb shown using 3-D and 4-D imaging.
A baby's face in the womb shown using 3-D and 4-D imaging. (photo: whitetherock photo / Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — Nearly one-third of U.S. House members are supporting a new bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks.

On Monday, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the House; the act would ban most abortions after 20 weeks gestation—the age when, according to some medical experts, unborn babies can begin feeling pain.

“Pain, we all dread it. We avoid it. We even fear it. And we all go to extraordinary lengths to mitigate its severity and its duration for ourselves,” Smith stated on Monday. “Yet every day, a whole segment of human beings is being subjected to painful—and deadly—procedures.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has also introduced a 20-week abortion ban in the Senate. Both Graham and Smith have introduced similar legislation in previous congresses.

Joining Smith were 142 members of the House, who co-sponsored his bill on Monday.

The House in 2015 and again in 2017 passed a 20-week abortion ban, but the legislation did not pass the Senate.

With Democrats having held control of the House since Jan., 2019, Smith’s legislation is not expected to pass the House.

Another pro-life bill—the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act—was introduced in the previous Congress yet failed to receive a vote. The bill required that babies surviving botched abortion attempts receive necessary care and be transported to a hospital. After Democratic leadership blocked debate on the act, members circulated a “discharge petition” to force consideration of the bill by the entire chamber, but the petition fell 13 signatures short of the 218 signatures necessary to force consideration.

Pro-life groups have told CNA that they are working to elect a pro-life majority to the House in 2022, to enable passage of pro-life legislation.

Pain-capable bills have also been introduced in the states of Florida and Montana. Gov. Greg Gianforte, R, of Montana has promised to sign the bill if it is passed by the state legislature.

Dilation and evacuation is the commonly-used abortion procedure for the second trimester. Smith said that the gruesome procedure “involves cutting and dismembering the child’s fragile body including severing his or her arms and legs. Until rendered unconscious or dead, the baby feels every cut.”

Smith cited Dr. Colleen Malloy, assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Division of Neonatology, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee in 2012 that unborn babies are already moving, kicking, and reacting at 20 weeks.

“In other words, there are children the same age who, in utero, can be painfully killed by abortion who have been born and are now being given lifesaving assistance,” Malloy said.

Doctors also administer anesthesia to unborn children when conducting treatments, Smith said.

In 2020, Sen. Graham’s 20-week abortion ban—named “Micah’s Law”—failed to gather the necessary 60 votes for passage. The bill was named after Micah Pickering, who was born prematurely at 22 weeks and who survived after spending four months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Pickering’s mother told CNA at the time that the legislation “is not just [about] Micah, but is every little baby that could ever be born.”

While the vote was largely party-line, two Democratic senators —Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., — broke with their party to support Graham’s bill, while Republican Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, opposed it.