In an historic vote yesterday, a solid majority of the U.S. House voted to reject the current abortion policy of the District of Columbia, which permits legal abortion for any reason until birth, and to replace it with a law that would generally prevent abortion after 20 weeks fetal age.
The legislation, H.R. 3803, is known as the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The vote was 220-154 in favor of the bill, a strong majority but short of the two-thirds vote required under the procedure used yesterday (”suspension of the rules”).
Wisconsin Right to Life strongly supports the legislation. All five Republican members of Wisconsin’s U.S. House delegation are co-sponsors of H.R. 3803 (Representatives James Sensenbrenner, Paul Ryan, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble). Of the three Democratic members of the Wisconsin delegation, Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore were recorded as “not voting” and Ron Kind voted against the life-saving legislation.
In the bill, Congress adopts findings that by 20 weeks after fertilization (if not earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to feel great pain. The bill prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother.
Seven states have already enacted similar legislation. On July 30, a federal judge in Arizona upheld as constitutional a new state law that generally prohibits abortions after 18 weeks fetal age - two weeks earlier than H.R. 3803. U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg, a Clinton appointee, found that “by 20 weeks, sensory receptors develop all over the child’s body” and “when provoked by painful stimuli, such as a needle, the child reacts, as measured by the increases in the child’s stress hormones, heart rate and blood pressure.” He also noted “Given the nature of D&Es and induction abortions…this Court concludes that the State has shown legitimate interest in limiting abortions past 20 weeks gestational age.”
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), sponsor of the Senate companion bill (S.2103), which has 30 Senate co-sponsors, filed the bill as an amendment to an unrelated bill pending on the Senate floor, S. 3414.
Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director of the National Right to Life Committee referred to yesterday’s groundbreaking majority vote as “a giant step towards this bill ultimately becoming law - perhaps after the replacement of some of the lawmakers who today were unwilling to protect pain-capable unborn children in the sixth month of pregnancy and later.”
Susan Armacost, Legislative Director of Wisconsin Right to Life expressed the organization’s appreciation to Representatives Sensenbrenner, Ryan, Petri, Duffy and Ribble for their co-sponsorship of the legislation. “We thank them for their care and concern for the most vulnerable members of the human family. Their compassion stands in stark contrast with Representative Ron Kind’s vote that demonstrated an utter contempt for the value of human life. Pro-abortion Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore were recorded as ‘not voting’ so we are unable to comment about them beyond that - at least in regard to this particular legislation.”