The bill is based on claims about fetal pain that aren’t supported by research.
By Anna North Updated Jan 29, 2018, 2:53pm EST
[Update: Senate Democrats have blocked passage of this bill.]
On Monday, the Senate will hold a procedural vote on a bill that would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal in every state in the country. Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it’s based on the idea that a fetus at 20 weeks’ gestation can feel pain.
“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House majority leader, in a statement in September (the House passed the bill in early October). "It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain.” While the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate because of the 60 votes required, President Donald Trump has promised to sign the it if it passes; during the campaign, he said such a bill “would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.”
In fact, the best available science shows that fetuses probably cannot feel pain until well after 20 weeks. Advocates of abortion rights say 20-week bans at the state level have harmed women, forcing them to travel to another state, often at great expense, to get the care they seek. And opponents of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fear that, even if it never passes, it will ultimately spread dangerous misinformation.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is not based on accepted science
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide, except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother. A doctor who performed an abortion after 20 weeks, except in those cases, could face up to five years in prison. Women seeking abortions would not be penalized under the bill.