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Near Majority Momentum Builds on Bill to Curb Legal Abortion-Until-Birth Policy

Jul 27, 2012 | 03-Summer 2012 NRL News

NRL News
Page 32
Summer 2012
Volume 39
Issue 3

House Cosponsor List Hits 205 – Near Majority
Momentum Builds on Bill to Curb Legal Abortion-Until-Birth Policy,
Bar Abortion on Pain-Capable Unborn in Nation’s Capital

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2012) — Momentum is building in the U.S. House of Representatives on an NRLC-backed bill to put an end to a policy of legal abortion for any reason, until the moment of birth, in the nation’s capital – a jurisdiction that the Constitution places directly under the control of Congress, and the President.

Under the bill, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803), Congress would adopt a formal finding that by 20 weeks fetal age (if not earlier), an unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain during an abortion – and, on that basis, would permit abortion after that point only if the mother’s life is endangered.

Currently, in the District of Columbia, abortion is legal for any reason until the moment of birth. This is so, not as the direct result of any Supreme Court decision or any overt action by Congress, but because a local legislative body known as the District Council, operating with limited authorities delegated by Congress, repealed the entire abortion law that had previously been in effect.

The bill is sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.). At NRL News deadline on June 21, the bill had 204 House cosponsors. In the 435-seat House, 218 constitutes an absolute majority when every seat is filled.

Identical legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) as S. 2103. As of June 21, S. 2103 had 28 cosponsors.

Dramatic hearing held

On May 17, a hearing was held on the bill before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee, which Congressman Franks chairs. All of the majority Republicans on the panel are cosponsors of the bill. All of the Democrats, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), opposed it, arguing that it was both an infringement on “abortion rights” and an infringement on their concept of “home rule,” under which District law would always be set by local city officials rather than by Congress.

“Just because we have the power to impose our will on people who have no voice, does not make it right or moral,” Nadler said, referring to the “home rule” objection – apparently unconscious that his reference to people “who have no voice” echoed pro-life characterizations of the unborn children who are killed in abortions.

The subcommittee received testimony from three different physicians, representing three different specialities, in support of the bill.

The most dramatic testimony was presented by Dr. Anthony Levatino, a practicing ob-gyn in New Mexico who formerly performed late abortions. Dr. Levatino in graphic detail described a dismemberment (D&E) abortion at 23 weeks, while displaying a 13-inch steel “Sopher clamp,” a stainless steel grasping tool that employed for such dismemberment.

“Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard,” Dr. Levatino said. “You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.

“The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face may come out and stare back at you.”

Dr. Levatino concluded: “If you refuse to believe that this procedure inflicts severe pain on that unborn child, please think again.”

One subcommittee member later remarked that he felt the testimony “was perhaps the most compelling and moving I have heard here” [as a Member of Congress].

A YouTube video of Dr. Levatino’s presentation, which to date has received about 19,000 views, is posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t–MhKiaD7c&feature=youtu.be

Dr. Levatino’s formal written testimony is available here: http://nrlc.org///uploads/fetalpain/TestimonyAnthonyLevatinoHR3803.pdf

Dr. Colleen Malloy, M.D., a professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, testified regarding her experience caring for premature infants, and regarding the evidence that unborn babies and prematurely born babies feel pain.

“In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we can witness first hand the change in vital signs associated with pain,” Dr. Malloy said. “When procedures such as IV placement or chest tube insertion are performed on neonates at 20 weeks post-fertilization age and above, the response is similar to those seen in older infants or children. . . . At 23 weeks in utero, a fetus will respond to pain (intrahepatic needling, for example) with the same pain behaviors as older babies: screwing up the eyes, opening the mouth, clenching hands, withdrawal of limbs. In addition, stress hormones rise substantially with painful blood puncture, beginning at 18 weeks gestation. This hormonal response is the same one mounted by born infants. In addition, use of analgesia during neonatal surgery is standard of care; any infant undergoing fetal surgery is expected to receive appropriate pain medication as adults receive.”

Dr. Byron Calhoun, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at West Virginia University-Charleston, testified about his work in providing care in cases of mothers of unborn children who have serious abnormalities, including his pioneering work in establishing “perinatal hospices,” where such infants can be born and live out their life spans with their family members.

“Hospice emphasizes they are allowed to ‘parent’ their child how they would like to do so,” Dr. Calhoun testified. “We discuss the support of and care for them during their pregnancy, delivery, and death of their child. Parents also fear their baby might have pain. If they desire comfort measures for their baby: oxygen, feeding, medications, pain relief if indicated, and wound dressings; they are assured these will be provided. . . .

“To date, 125 perinatal hospices in 34 of the United States and 13 international hospices have been created. What started as a small, simple idea to promote patient-centered choice and humanity honoring care, has blossomed into a national and international movement for compassionate care for families. We look forward to the day when all parents will be allowed to ‘just be parents’ and love their children for however long they may tarry.”

Christy Zink of Washington, D.C., testified against the bill at the invitation of the minority (Democrat) members of the subcommittee. Ms. Zink testified about an abortion she received after her unborn child was discovered to have an abnormality of the brain.

(While nobody pointed it out during the hearing, based on the detailed statements that Ms. Zink offered regarding her pregnancy, her abortion was performed earlier than the cutoff that would be established under the bill.)

The written testimony of each witness is available at the NRLC website at http://nrlc.org///abortion/fetalpain

The House Judiciary Committee provides access to a video recording of the entire hearing, including question and answer exchanges between subcommittee members and the witnesses, at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/Hearings%202012/hear_05172012_2.html

Associated Press Correction: Abortion Legal to Birth in D.C.

In a May 17 dispatch disseminated after the hearing, the Associated Press noted claims by “anti-abortion activists” that the District abortion policy is “unusually permissive,” but asserted, “In the district, abortion is legal before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb and after viability to protect the life or health of the mother . . . District officials and abortion-rights supporters say the district law follows the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.”

NRLC challenged the AP assertion, pointing out that the terms of Roe v. Wade really had no bearing on the question, because the District Council (city council) had simply repealed the District abortion law in total. After investigation, on May 23 the Associated Press disseminated nationally a correction, which read as follows:

“Correction: Fetal Pain story. By Associated Press, Published: May 23

WASHINGTON — In a May 17 story about a bill that would ban abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, The Associated Press, relying on information provided by district officials, erroneously reported that abortion of a viable fetus is legal in the district only to protect the life or health of the mother. Abortions for any reason are legal in the district.”

NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson commented, “District officials, including Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting delegate to the House, have a long history of misleading Congress and others on matters pertaining to abortion – and the Associated Press was just the latest victim of such misinformation. We welcome AP’s May 23 acknowledgment of the truth of what NRLC has been telling Congress: In the nation’s capital, abortion is legal, for any reason, both before and after viability – that is, until the moment of birth.”

Pro-Abortion Groups See Bill as Threat to Roe v. Wade

In a letter to her fellow House Democrats, released in February, Delegate Norton said that the bill “has the potential to eviscerate the entire Roe framework,” referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Norton added, “Understanding the far-reaching scope of this bill, and the energy and resources that anti-choice [pro-life] advocates are going to put behind it, pro-choice groups have also indicated that stopping this bill will be a top legislative priority in 2012.”

At a February press conference, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray attacked the bill and said that its supporters would never try to pass the same bill to cover the entire country.

Johnson commented, “Mayor Gray certainly has no way of knowing what pro-life members of Congress may propose in the future. But the congressional sponsors are taking the right approach in placing their immediate focus on the District of Columbia. Congress never gave up its constitutional responsibility for governance of the District — and indeed, Congress cannot possibly give up this authority, except by adoption of a constitutional amendment. The nation’s capital belongs to all Americans –and the Congress cannot escape the ultimate responsibility for the current extreme abortion policy in the federal District. A vote against this bill is a vote to ratify a policy of legal abortion, for any reason, to the moment of birth.”

Johnson also noted, “An increasing number of states are moving to protect pain-capable unborn children, and introducing a nationwide bill this year would only have undercut those ongoing state-based efforts.”

State Bans Continue to Advance

The federal legislation is closely patterned after a model state bill that NRLC originated in 2010, which has so far been enacted in seven states: Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Louisiana.

The Louisiana bill was signed into law on June 11 by Governor Bobby Jindal (R), who on the same day also signed another bill to enhance legal protections against euthanasia. Governor Jindal said, “It is incumbent upon us to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, and these new laws will protect innocent human life.”

Take Action Now!

To see an always-current Action Alert on how you can help pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, including always-current lists of House and Senate cosponsors, visit the NRLC Legislative Action Center at http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/

Extensive additional documentation on the capacity of unborn children to experience pain, and on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection bills, is available at the NRLC website at http://nrlc.org///abortion/fetalpain

To see a medical illustration of the abortion method most commonly used on pain-capable unborn children, type the following address into your web browser: http://nrlc.org///abortion/pba/DEabortiongraphic

Always-current lists are readily accessible through the NRLC Legislative Action Center at the NRLC home page, http://nrlc.org//