House to Consider Late-Term Abortion Ban

House will consider bill to ban abortion nationally after five months of pregnancy

Trent Franks / AP
May 20, 2013

The House of Representatives will consider a bill that would ban abortions across the country after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) announced Friday.

The "D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act" comes in the wake of the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia, where he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing three newborn babies by severing their spines.

Franks first reintroduced the bill on April 26, 2013, after the House passed it last year. As originally written, the bill would outlaw abortion 20 weeks and later after conception only in the District of Columbia, but Franks pledged on Friday to amend the bill to extend the ban across the country.

"Knowingly subjecting our innocent unborn children to dismemberment in the womb, particularly when they have developed to the point that they can feel excruciating pain every terrible moment leading up to their undeserved deaths, belies everything America was called to be," Franks said in a statement.

The "dismemberment" refers to the "dilation and extraction" procedure used by many abortion clinics for second trimester abortions. The Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortion clinic in Washington, D.C., calls this procedure "the safest method for second trimester abortions." This clinic will perform second trimester abortions up to 24 weeks after conception.

Both Franks and the National Right to Life Committee (NLRC), which is promoting the bill, invoked the conviction of Kermit Gosnell when announcing the bill.

"Because of publicity surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell and subsequent revelations about other abortionists, many Americans are becoming aware for the first time that abortions are frequently performed late in pregnancy on babies who are capable of being born alive, and on babies who will experience great pain while being killed," the NRLC said in a statement on Friday.

"We think the time is right to push for the broader ban," said Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director.

The bill is similar to one introduced last year during the previous congressional session. A majority of the House cosponsored the bill, but it needed a two-thirds majority to pass for procedural reasons. It did not meet that threshold, Johnson said.

The previous version of the bill was part of a campaign by the National Right to Life Committee to ban abortions at the state and local level, Johnson said. Nine states already have enacted similar legislation, and Franks introduced the bill last year to include the District of Columbia in that number, since Congress has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the federal district.

Johnson expressed hope that the bill would pass the House, although he said that it would face much stiffer resistance from the Senate and White House. He said Obama has opposed all substantive restrictions on abortion, including a proposal while he was a state legislator that would require doctors to save infants born alive after a botched abortion.

Johnson noted that it took eight years to pass the federal ban on partial birth abortions, which President George W. Bush signed in 2003.

Abortion proponents fought Franks' bill last year. NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement on Friday opposing the bill’s expansion.

"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," said NARAL president Ilyse Hogue in the statement.

She pledged to "fight this senseless attack and protect the rights of all women."

Both NARAL and Planned Parenthood released statements condemning the actions of Dr. Gosnell and praising the verdict.

"This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again," said Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood vice president for communications, in the statement.

Neither NARAL nor Planned Parenthood returned a request for comment on the bill. Franks’ office also did not return a request for comment.