Today, Senator Lindsey Graham, the head of the Judicial Committee, is holding a hearing on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a dangerous bill based on “junk science” that would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal. This bill could have lethal consequences for women who “are faced with pregnancies complicated by severe birth defects that can only be diagnosed at this stage of pregnancy.”
At the hearing, Senator Durbin argued that “while we debate abortion, pregnant moms in the US are dying at a rate nearly unheard of in the rest of the world…23,000 infants die each year mostly from preventable issues. Out of the richest nations we rank 32 out of 35 concerning infant deaths.”
Democratic State Senator Jen Jordan testified that the 20 week ban in Georgia has negatively impacted women’s rights to make comprehensive reproductive healthcare choices. “We heard testimony from mothers who just happened to get a scan a bit earlier than 20 weeks & they felt like they were rushed into a decision to terminate a pregnancy, that they didn’t have time to evaluate the other options because of the 20 week ban.”
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act incorrectly claims that “an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.” All current medical evidence disputes this claim. The Act would ban abortion nationally after 20 weeks except in cases of incest, rape, or if the life of the mother is in danger. The Act would also impose a fine and prison time for those who perform an abortion after 20 weeks.
Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive health at the University of California at San Francisco and the director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, said that “the best available evidence indicates that it’s not possible for a fetus at 20 or 22 weeks to feel pain. The neurofibrils that connect pain receptors to the cerebral cortex are not developed, and really don’t develop until the third trimester.” The Journal of the American Medical Association agrees with Dr. Grossman’s conclusions; in 2005 the journal published the most comprehensive literature review on fetal pain and concluded that fetuses don’t develop pain receptors until the third trimester.
Seventeen states currently have 20 week abortion bans even though only 1.3% of all abortions occur after 20 weeks. Dr. Beverly Gray argues that although the number of abortions after 20 weeks is low, it is necessary to allow legal abortions after 20 weeks because of the reasons why women seek abortions after 20 weeks are very complex. “Many of these women are faced with pregnancies complicated by severe birth defects that can only be diagnosed at this stage of the pregnancy. Other women are diagnosed with medical complications, such as cancer, where pregnancy can put their life at risk. Many teenagers don’t realize they are pregnant until the second trimester and often seek care later, especially if they are hesitant to disclose the news to their family. Because abortion after 20 weeks is more rare, there are fewer ob-gyn’s who provide this care, making it logistically difficult to find a doctor, which can also create delays.”
The passage of this bill would have extremely dangerous effects on reproductive health care and reproductive choice.
Media Resources: Refinery 29 1/29/18; Committee on the Judiciary 4/9/19; Feminist Majority 4/9/19