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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. House of Representatives has given the go-ahead to HR36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
By a 237–189 vote Tuesday night, the Republican-led chamber voted to approve the bill, which would ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy — the point at which evidence shows without a doubt unborn babies can feel pain (although evidence also points to their ability to feel pain far earlier in gestation).
The White House issued a statement ahead of the vote, declaring strong support for HR36.
"The bill, if enacted into law, would help to facilitate the Culture of Life to which our nation aspires," the statement read. "The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations in which only seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy."
"America's children deserve the stronger protections that HR36 would advance," it added.
The bill now proceeds to the Senate, where it faces a much steeper climb. It must garner 60 votes in order to advance to the president's desk but, owing to the universally pro-abortion stance of Senate Democrats and pro-abortion Republicans like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, this is considered a long shot.
HR36 establishes penalties for anyone performing or attempting to perform an abortion at 20 weeks or later, including "a fine, up to five years in prison or both."
Abortions deemed "necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman" or "when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest" are exempted from the act. Additionally, "A woman who undergoes a prohibited abortion may not be prosecuted for violating or conspiring to violate the provisions of this bill."
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is rooted in a growing body of scientific evidence that the unborn are capable of feeling pain at at least 20 weeks after fertilization.
Abortion activists and their Establishment media allies rail against the scientific evidence because it undermines their attempts to dehumanize the unborn: Only a living being can feel pain, and if an unborn baby can feel pain then logically she is very much alive.
Pro-abortion detractors often point to a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggesting the unborn are "unlikely" to feel pain until somewhere around their 27th week.
But, according to fetal pain experts, this is contradicted by the evidence:
The position, asserted by some medical experts, that the unborn child is incapable of experiencing pain until a point later in pregnancy than 20 weeks after fertilization predominantly rests on the assumption that the ability to experience pain depends on the cerebral cortex and requires nerve connections between the thalamus and the cortex. However, recent medical research and analysis, especially since 2007, provides strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.
Before introducing the bill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–CA) called on his colleagues to consider what is at stake in the debate over the suffering of the unborn.
"We have an obligation to speak for and defend those who can't speak for themselves," said McCarthy.
"I welcome every member of the House and the Senate to unite together and say that when children can feel pain ... at the very least, we can all agree these children should be protected."
A Quinnipiac poll has found that 68 percent of women support banning abortion at the point an unborn child can feel pain.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, commented, "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act declares that children in the womb who are at least 20 weeks old — and who, therefore, can feel pain — should not be dismembered, decapitated, or otherwise brutally killed. It's that simple. "
He added, "Frankly, if a Member of Congress cannot support such a measure, he or she is unworthy of anyone's trust or vote."