The House of Representatives will vote on a bill next week that would ban nearly all late-term abortions, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The legislation would establish a national limit on abortion at 20 weeks after conception—five months into pregnancy—which is the gestational age at which infants can of feel pain and survive long-term if born prematurely.
“Life is precious and we must do everything we can to fight for it and protect it,” said McCarthy, a California Republican. “Our commitment for the House to consider this important legislation has been steadfast and I am proud of the work of our members to prepare this bill for House consideration next week.”
In 2013, the House passed the bill, called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which included exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and when a physical health issue endangers the life of the mother. But an effort to pass identical legislation in the new Congress was scrapped in January on the eve of the annual March for Life because some GOP members, led publicly by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, objected to the bill's reporting requirement for late-term abortions in the case of rape. The bill required the crime to be reported to law enforcement officials at any point prior to performing a late-term abortion.
According to House Republicans, that requirement has been removed from the bill. Instead, the legislation requires abortion doctors to ensure that victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the late-term procedure. With that change, the bill has assuaged the concerns of those Republican members while still garnering strong support of national pro-life groups, including the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.
“I’m proud we’ve gotten to a point where we found a consensus between our members and the pro-life groups out there,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee.
“We will have even stronger support than we did in the last Congress,” said Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a leading pro-life advocate in the House. “It will be good to have a truly unified pro-life conference.”
National Right to Life Committee president Carol Tobias worked closely with Republican leadership staff members and met Thursday with McCarthy. “I felt very comfortable working with leadership staff,” said Tobias. “We were working as allies.”
"We are thankful to our pro-life allies on the Hill, including House GOP leadership and the Congressional Pro-Life Women’s Caucus, who have tirelessly worked to bring this bill to a vote," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "This process has yielded a strong bill which we expect to pass next week with enthusiastic bipartisan support."
Smith suggested up to three pro-life House Democrats could support this bill:Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Henry Cuellar of Texas, all three of whom voted for the 2013 legislation. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is sponsoring related legislation in the Senate. President Obama vowed earlier this year to veto a pain-capable abortion ban, saying the legislation "disregards women’s health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients’ health care decisions, and the Constitution."
The new House bill also has some added provisions that Republican sources say aim to protect the lives of infants and the well-being of mothers. These include protections for infants born alive in the process of an abortion, an informed consent form for those women seeking an abortion that describes the law and the gestational age of the child in the womb, and empowerment of women with a civil right of action against abortion providers who fail to comply with the law.
Many of these provisions address issues raised during and after the investigation and trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder for killing born-alive infants.
The Gosnell story, with its gruesome details of unsanitary conditions and the routine killing of infants with scissors, has greatly influenced the legislation. The House will vote on the bill on or around the two-year anniversary of Gosnell’s May 13, 2013, conviction.
“The bill does fit in well with the conviction of Kermit Gosnell,” said NRLC's Tobias. “If he had done the abortions before he killed [the babies], he wouldn’t be in jail right now.”