NRL News

Senate vote on Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “not a defeat, but a stepping stone towards victory”

by | Sep 23, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Yesterday 42 United States senators—40 Democrats and two Republicans—voted against advancing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. At his snarky best, Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dismissed the attempt to make the Senate actually vote on H.R. 36 as a “show vote designed to honor the political wish lists of extremists.” Let’s consider for a moment what actually happened yesterday and what it may portend.

First, while 54 senators (51 Republicans and three Democrats) voted to take the bill up for debate, 60 votes were required. That’s the way the Senate now works on “controversial” legislation.

What was it that we “extremists” wanted the Senate to vote on? What “extreme” legislation did H.R. 36 represent?

Here’s how Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chief Senate sponsor of the legislation, characterized the Senate’s action (or inaction) in a statement issued Tuesday:

“America is at her best when she’s standing up for the least among us,” said Graham. “Even though we were not successful, this votes marks an important milestone when it comes to protecting the unborn. We took the first vote in the Senate and were able to see where every Senator stands. Today, the battle begins working to bring more supporters to our cause.

“There are only seven countries that allow wholesale abortions at the 20-week period including China and North Korea,” said Graham. “We should no longer be part of that club.”

At the age of 20 weeks or five months post-fertilization, scientific evidence tells us an unborn child can feel pain. Pain medication is administered directly to the unborn child in second-trimester fetal surgery, in addition to anesthesia. The unborn child shows physical, chemical, brain and stress responses demonstrating pain at this stage of development.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on science, has overwhelming public support, and is necessary to protect unborn children from painful, and untimely deaths.

But when something that ought to have been moved along for a vote doesn’t, it’s easy to be disheartened. That is why Sen. Graham’s last paragraph is so important to remember:

“I view today’s vote as the start of a journey, much like the one we used to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban into law,” concluded Graham. “The sooner this legislation becomes law, the better. We are on the right side of history.”

Passing legislation that is supported by the American people will nonetheless always be tough sledding when pro-abortion members of Congress are extremists times ten on abortion. But it can be done, it has been done, and it will be done again.

Consider the very commonsensical parameters of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It extends general protection to unborn children who are at least 20 weeks beyond fertilization (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy — about the start of the sixth month).


And no matter how many deniers there are on the Democratic side of the aisle, there is abundant evidence that by this point in development (and probably earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience excruciating pain during typical abortion procedures.

As NRLC said in a letter to the Senate

It is now commonplace to read about evidence that, by 20 weeks fetal age and even earlier, an unborn child responds to many forms of stimuli, including music and the mother’s voice. Claims that the same child is nevertheless insensible to the violence done to her body during an abortion should engender strong skepticism. Abortions at this stage are performed using a variety of techniques, but most often by 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.

Anything else? Yes. The bill spells out the procedural requirements that abortionists must follow when performing an abortion, including seeking to preserve the life of the child whenever this is feasible. The bill also creates specific requirements for the protection of infants who are born alive during these late abortions.

Get that? If the child survives a late abortion, the abortionist is not free to ignore the baby, to leave the baby to die unattended and without care.

Pro-Life Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

Pro-Life Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)

Opponents of H.R. 36 stated, as if it were fact, that babies cannot survive at this stage. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) quoted from a Washington Post article, ‘‘That babies can survive at 22 weeks gestational age has been known for 15 years.’’

Sen. Grassley also addressed the canard that such abortions are “extraordinarily rare.”

Some jurisdictions with the most lax abortion policies don’t even collect data on the stage of pregnancy when an abortion is performed, while other jurisdictions may have reporting requirements but are not really enforcing those reporting requirements. Because data on late-term abortions is not widely available, it is hard to know what hard evidence really exists to support the claim. We do know that several hundred doctors, and well over 200 facilities across the United States, offer abortions after 20 weeks of fetal age.

We’ll be posting more about the Senate’s deliberation, so let me close with two quotes from NRLC President Carol Tobias.

One-fourth of premature infants now survive when born at this stage – and there is strong evidence that they experience great pain, as they are torn limb from limb in late abortions.


Today’s majority vote is not a defeat, but a stepping stone towards victory.

Categories: Legislation