Ben Johnson also contributed to this article.
Yesterday morning Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, introduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
The Act, which passed the House of Representatives in June, would ban abortions after 20 or more weeks post-gestation, with the exception of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
Surrounded by a host of pro-life leaders, Graham made the announcement at a press conference yesterday morning attended by LifeSiteNews.com.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the bill represented the first time since Roe vs. Wade that the Senate is considering “protecting babies at a stage of life.”
Graham laid out the rationale behind the law: “Because the child is pain-capable, the state has a compelling interest in protecting that unborn child, apart from viability.”
“There is ample medical evidence to support this bill’s findings that unborn children are capable of experiencing pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization,” said Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council, who also spoke at the conference. “Anesthesia is regularly administered to unborn children during prenatal surgery, which eliminates the stress response.”
Graham said he’s insisting the legislation come up for a vote in 2014, but he does not expect it to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate – much less President Obama’s threatened veto – this session.
If there were a vote today, “I imagine we would be short of 50,” he admitted, but support for this measure would “go at a faster pace” than other pro-life bills, such as the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” and the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban, that eventually became law.
During the question and answer session, Graham told LifeSiteNews.com the reason the bill was not introduced in the Senate for nearly five months after it passed the House had to do with the nature of the Senate. “We had an argument among my colleagues, that are all supportive of the concept of protecting the baby. They just couldn’t agree upon the constitutional theory,” Senator Graham told LifeSiteNews. “There’s probably four or five theories.”
Ultimately, they pressed forward and decided to press forward with the bill.
A number of senators, including Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, had been rumored to introduce the bill, which would save between 10,000 and 15,000 unborn children a year, according to varying estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Guttmacher Institute.
It would not affect the vast majority of abortions performed before 20-weeks. According to a Guttmacher study published in 2006, 88 percent of abortions are committed before 12 weeks post-gestation.
Senator Rob Portman, R-OH, talked about visiting neo-natal units and holding 20-week-old children “in your hand.”
Portman, who faces opposition from many pro-lifers in his own state, said most Americans agree “abortion should be as rare as possible.”
Graham said the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia should not be seen as a reason the legislation could not move forward, adding that Democrat Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe was not asked if he supported banning late-term abortions.
Polls show the bill enjoys popular support. A Quinnipiac poll published in August found 55 percent of Americans opposed abortion being legal without restrictions after 20 weeks. This included 60 percent of women, with only 25 percent of women supportive of keeping current 24-week limits.
“The vast majority of these are purely elective, as abortion doctors themselves have admitted,” said Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association. As for children with fetal defects, she said, “Surely a country that passed the Americans With Disabilities Act can choose compassion for our most vulnerable disabled members.”
Several speakers cited Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia “house of horrors” abortionist who specialized in illegal late-term abortions. A speaker with the National Black Pro-Life Union founder said “abortion is decimating the African-American community.”
In addition to those who spoke at this afternoon’s conference, several other national pro-life organizations have pledged their support to this legislation.
“Every innocent life deserves to be protected,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “This bill would protect children who experience horrific pain during a late-term abortion and the women whose physical and mental health is in greater danger from such abortions.”
“This is the human rights issue of our time,” Higgins said.