On Friday, Arizona congressman Trent Franks announced he will be introducing a bill to prohibit abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy, with exceptions for when the mother's life or physical health is at risk. NARAL president Ilyse Hogue condemned the modest restriction in a statement:
“Rep. Franks is using this bill in a shameless effort to exploit the terrible tragedy in Pennsylvania where Kermit Gosnell was just convicted of murder for performing illegal abortions that resulted in killing of infants and women. The women of America deserve better.
“Gosnell was a criminal whose activities were made possible by the very kind of anti-choice policies Franks is advancing. By cutting funding, reducing access and imposing unnecessary restrictions on safe and legal abortion, anti-choice politicians have forced women – especially low-income women – into the waiting hands of unscrupulous operators like Kermit Gosnell.
“We will fight this senseless attack and protect the rights of all women.”
Franks's bill would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, the point at which babies can feel pain and the point at which some babies can survive long-term if born:
"In June 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a Swedish series of over 300,000 infants," Dr. Colleen Malloy testified before Congress in 2012. "Survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks postfertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively." So a law restricting abortion after 20 weeks would not run afoul of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's dictate that abortion must not be restricted prior to "viability."
Franks's new bill will be debated in the wake of the murder trial and conviction of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who killed infants immediately after they were born by severing their spinal cords. That trial left many Americans asking what the moral difference is between killing a baby born at six months and killing that same infant moments before birth. "What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote liberal columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."
Although Gosnell is behind bars, tens of thousands of late-term abortions (or "legal infanticides," if you will) take place in America every year. Dr. LeRoy Carhart has said he will perform "purely elective" abortions on babies 28 weeks into pregnancy in the state of Maryland. Another late-term abortion doctor named James Pendergraft says he will perform even later abortions under Maryland's "health exception" if a pregnancy is causing "anxiety and stress."
Although congressional Republicans usually prefer state laws to federal laws, the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban passed Congress with the support of even the staunchest federalists, including former congressman Ron Paul of Texas. The Gosnell trial highlighted the need for federal laws regulating late-term abortions because the state of Pennsylvania turned a blind eye to Gosnell's "house of horrors." Gosnell's abortion facility was not inspected by the Pennsylvania government for 17 years. A resolution introduced by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania called on Congress to "evaluate the extent to which such abortions involve violations of the civil right to life of infants who are born alive or are capable of being born alive, and therefore are entitled to equal protection under the law."