Communications Department

NRLC to Harry Reid: “Let the Senate vote on bill to protect unborn babies who feel pain”

Nov 7, 2013 | 2013 Press Releases

WASHINGTON (November 7, 2013) – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of state right-to-life organizations, is calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the Senate floor for a vote. At a press conference this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced he would introduce the landmark legislation that would provide nationwide protection for unborn children who are capable of feeling pain, beginning at 20 weeks fetal age (equivalent to “22 weeks of pregnancy,” the beginning of the sixth month).

“It is time for the Senate to take action on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and we urge Senator Reid to heed the will of the people and allow the bill to come before the Senate for a vote,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “One-fifth of the states, nearly two-thirds of Americans, including two-thirds of American women, and the U.S. House of Representatives agree. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to do its job and act to protect these most vulnerable members of our human family.”

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on a National Right to Life model bill that has already been enacted in ten states. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the federal bill June 18, 2013, 228-196.

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 is in danger. Only 30% opposed such legislation. Women voters split 63%-31% in support of such a law, and 63% of independent voters supported it.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would allow abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization if the mother’s life is endangered, or in cases of rape and incest reported prior to the abortion to appropriate authorities.

The bill contains congressional findings of fact regarding the medical evidence that unborn children experience pain at least by 20 weeks “post-fertilization age,” or the start of the sixth month. Note: 20 weeks post-fertilization age (“fetal age”) is equivalent to “22 weeks of pregnancy” in the widely employed “LMP” dating system.

Some of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks fetal age, is available on the National Right to Life website at and also here:

Late abortions are not “rare.” As National Right to Life observed in a letter to senators last week, “Because of coverage 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.”

NRLC estimates that at least 140 abortion providers offer abortions past the point that this legislation would permit. These late abortions are performed using a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool. A medical illustration of this common method (“D&E”) is posted here:

Dilation & Evacuation Illustration

“Not since Congress voted to ban the brutal partial-birth abortion method has a more important piece of pro-life legislation come before Congress,” added Susan T. Muskett, J.D., National Right to Life senior legislative counsel. “Lives hang in the balance. Congress cannot sit idly by to condone these violent acts; it’s time to take a stand for the protection of these pain-capable unborn children.”

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National Right to Life President Carol Tobias and Senior Legislative Counsel Susan T. Muskett, J.D., are available for expert commentary and analysis. To arrange an interview, please contact the NRLC Communications Department at (202) 626-8825 or email

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.

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