Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona announced Friday afternoon that he will introduce a bill that would ban abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy (20 weeks after conception) nationwide--with exceptions for when the life or physical health of the mother is at risk.
Why 20 weeks? Franks's bill points out that the child in utero is very developed at that point. Medical science indicates that at 20 weeks, if not earlier, a baby can feel pain. Some infants born that early survive long-term.
"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."