Communications Department

National Right to Life Applauds Rep. Franks’ Plan to Pursue National Protection for Pain-Capable Unborn Children

May 17, 2013 | 2013 Press Releases

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2013) — The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of state right-to-life organizations, today pledged its full support for an announcement by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.) that he will advance legislation to provide protection nationwide for unborn children who have the capacity to experience pain while being aborted, a capacity defined in the bill as existing by 20 weeks fetal age.

Franks, who chairs the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, is the prime sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The current version of the bill, which garnered a majority vote in the House in 2012, would apply only to the District of Columbia. In a press release issued today, Mr. Franks announced his intention to revise the bill (H.R. 1797) in committee to cover the entire nation.

“National Right to Life strongly concurs in Congressman Franks’ decision that the time is ripe to seek protection for pain-capable unborn children nationwide,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. “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.”

In a nationwide poll of 1,003 registered voters in March, The Polling Company found that 64% would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks — when an unborn baby can feel pain — unless the life of the mother was in danger. Only 30% opposed such legislation.

The federal bill contains legislative findings and operative language very similar to bills already enacted in nine states, beginning in 2010, based on model legislation prepared by NRLC. Like those state laws, Mr. Franks’ legislation contains findings of fact regarding the medical evidence that unborn children experience pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization (which is 22 weeks in the “LMP” system, or about the start of the sixth month), and prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother. Some of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks, is available on the NRLC website at

A medical illustration of a common method of late abortion (“D&E”) is posted here:

During the 2011-12 Congress, Mr. Franks’ bill garnered 222 co-sponsors in the 435-member House, and received the support of a majority of House members on July 31, 2012 (roll call no. 539).

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a hearing on the legislation on Thursday, May 23, 2013, at 10 AM.


Founded in 1968, National Right to Life, the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.