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House passes bill banning 20-week abortions

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, exactly two years after a Pennsylvania jury found abortionist Kermit Gosnell guilty of murdering late-term infants born alive.

“Late-term abortion is not health, and it’s not care,” Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., a registered nurse, said on the House floor. “This is a human rights issue.”

The 242-184 vote also came almost two years after the House passed similar legislation that eventually died in the Senate. Republicans appeared poised to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act again in January, but GOP leadership abruptly pulled the bill amid a controversy over an exception for rape and incest victims.

Lawmakers worked behind the scenes to amend the previous language, which would have required women seeking abortions after five months to report the crime to authorities. The new language requires abortionists to make sure victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the procedure—effectively creating a two-day waiting period and ensuring the crime will reach someone who is a mandatory reporter.

The new version also adds informed consent, the right to sue an abortionist who doesn’t comply, and born-alive infant protection language that requires a second physician to be present at a late-term abortion.

The new provisions drew a muted response from Democrats, who hardly mentioned them. Their remarks mostly echoed their 2013 talking points, calling the bill onerous, insulting, and “patently unconstitutional.”

“This legislation is a dangerous and far-reaching attack on a woman’s constitutional right to determine whether to terminate a pregnancy,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

After the final vote, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., told me Democrats missed the point of the measure: “I don’t think they grasped the issue at all. … They talk about terminating a pregnancy, [but] they never mention innocent life—fully formed babies.”

Four Democrats voted for the ban: Reps. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Jim Langevin, R-R.I. Four Republicans voted against it: Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Bob Dold, R-Ill., Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.

The United States is one of seven nations—including China, Vietnam, and North Korea—to allow abortions beyond 20 weeks gestation. Polls show most Americans support a ban on the practice, generally by a 2-to-1 margin, including significant majorities among women and millennials.

“We have a mandate to act,” Black said, noting unborn children routinely face the same fate as Kermit Gosnell’s victims, and the law does not protect them. “The only difference is the location.”

Republicans frequently cited last week’s New York Times report on a new study that found premature infants often are viable earlier than previously believed—if they’re treated.

The bill represents the most significant pro-life legislation in a decade, but it faces long odds in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to bring the bill up for consideration, but he doesn’t appear to have the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for debate.

Lipinski told me it’s crucial for the House to put pressure on the Senate: “I don’t expect that it would have 60 votes, but I think it’s important for the Senate to have to address this issue [and] get the senators on record.”

Pro-life groups are anticipating a long-term fight and plan to make the 20-week abortion ban a major campaign issue in the 2016 presidential election. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List has secured commitments from 14 declared or probable GOP candidates who say they will support the legislation.

“The ongoing national conversation on this bill should force Hillary Clinton and the entire Democratic Party to choose,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. “Will they side with the wisdom of the American majority, or maintain their chilling pro-abortion platform: support for abortion on-demand, for any reason, up until the moment of birth, at taxpayer’s expense.”

— by J.C. Derrick

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