The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation prohibiting abortions from being performed five months or more after conception. The House voted 242-184 in favor of H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and Sharon Rodi, Louisiana's delegate to National Right to Life, was in Washington D.C. to witness it.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would extend general protection from abortion to unborn children beginning at 20 weeks fetal age, with certain exceptions. The 20-week period is based on congressional findings that by that point, or even earlier, the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain during an abortion. Similar laws have been enacted in 11 states, including Louisiana, but this bill would extend protection nationwide and could save thousands of babies each year from painful deaths.
"There was a good debate on the bill," said Rodi, who was sitting in the House gallery watching the debate and vote as it unfolded. "There were some interesting points brought up about why this 20-week ban is needed. There were photographs shown that carried powerful messages. It was exciting to see the pro-life side so impassioned about the issue."
One House member who caught Rodi's attention was Utah Rep. Mia Love, who told the group she hadn't planned to speak on the House floor that day but was moved to do so after watching the debate from her office. Love told House members she was disappointed that "there's even opposition to this legislation."
"I ran into her outside when we left (the Capitol), and I told her I really liked what she said and appreciated all she was doing," Rodi said.
Rodi said she was also impressed with Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who led the charge in pushing the 20-week abortion ban bill in the House. Franks told fellow House members, "It really is a test of our basic humanity and who we are as a human family," answering claims that dispute the fact unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks.
A day before the vote Rodi joined a group of House members and other key players in the pro-life movement in a meeting with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Rodi said the meeting, which took place in the Lincoln Room at the Capitol, was held to discuss the upcoming vote and to celebrate what the group believed would be its passage.
"Steve (Rep. Scalise) has really worked hard on this. He is so committed to the pro-life position. I was really happy to be there to support him and to see this bill passed," said Rodi.
Louisiana Right to Life Executive Director Benjamin Clapper is also pleased with the leadership Scalise has shown in helping get this bill passed.
"Our own Congressman Scalise showed tremendous leadership and commitment to the pro-life cause as House Majority Whip in steering this legislation to House passage," Clapper said. "We applaud his efforts and encourage the citizens of the 1st District to do so as well."
Following the vote, Scalise said: "This week, on the second anniversary of the murder convictions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the House has taken action to save at least 18,000 innocent lives a year and prevent the repeat of the barbaric and grisly acts that occurred in Gosnell's 'house of horrors.' The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act stands up for the lives of the unborn by preventing abortions after the fifth month of a pregnancy when the baby can feel pain. Today's vote sends a loud message that life is precious and America will stand up in defense of the unborn."
In a nationwide poll of 1,623 registered voters in November 2014, a Quinnipiac University Poll found that 60 percent would support a law such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, while only 33 percent opposed such legislation. Women voters split 59-35 percent in support of such a law, while independent voters supported it by 56-36 percent.
"Public opinion shows that people across our nation support compassionate legislation that ends painful late abortions in America," Clapper said. "We are pleased the House of Representatives took this proactive step to protect babies that feel the pain of abortion."
The bill was originally slated to be voted on in January but was pulled after some lawmakers objected to language used in the bill. The new language would grant the exception for rape victims if they had sought medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours before the abortion procedure, or reported the rape to law enforcement. It would also allow exceptions for incest victims if they report the attack to social service or law enforcement agencies.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is expected to introduce a version of the bill in the Senate, and Louisiana Senators David Vitter and Bill Cassidy have already said they would support legislation similar to H.R. 36. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has previously promised he would bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
Please Call and Thank Our Congressmen Below Who Voted in Favor of H.R. 36!
Congressman Steve Scalise: (202) 225-3015
Congressman John Fleming:(202) 225-2777
Congressman Charles Boustany: (202) 225-2031
Congressman Ralph Abraham: (202) 225-8490
Congressman Garret Graves: (202) 225-3901