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Ernst, Grassley, Colleagues Reintroduce 20-Week Abortion Ban

WASHINGTON – Iowa’s U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley today joined colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee in reintroducing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.


The legislation would provide commonsense protections for unborn children at 20 weeks after fertilization, a point at which there is significant scientific evidence that abortion inflicts tremendous pain on the unborn.


Earlier this week, Ernst and Grassley joined colleagues in an effort to end taxpayer funding for abortions.


The Pain-Capable legislation has been introduced in the last three Congresses.


“At five months, we know that babies can yawn, make faces, wiggle their ten fingers and ten toes and feel pain. Sadly, the United States is only one of a handful of countries around the world—including North Korea and China—where on-demand abortions after the five month mark are legal. This isn’t right. I am committed to defending these innocent lives,” Ernst said.


“Science tells us that an unborn child has many of the neural connections needed to feel pain perhaps as early as eight weeks and most certainly by 20 weeks fetal age. And the American people overwhelmingly support restrictions on late-term abortions. That’s for good reason. One Iowan, Micah Pickering, was born early at 20 weeks. Today Micah is living proof that just 20 weeks can create a beautiful human life. This bill will help make sure that other human lives also have a chance,” Grassley said.


Background on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act:


At the age of 20 weeks post-fertilization, scientific evidence demonstrates that an unborn child can feel pain.  Anesthesia is administered directly to the unborn child in second-trimester fetal surgery. 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 in science, has overwhelming public support, and is necessary to protect unborn children from painful and untimely deaths. Advances in modern medicine help babies born at 20, 21 and 22 weeks post-fertilization survive outside the womb. The pain these babies feel outside the womb gives evidence to the pain their unborn counterparts feel while in utero.


The United States is one of only seven countries that allows on-demand abortions past 20 weeks. The other six are North Korea, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada and the Netherlands. Pain-Capable legislation has already passed in South Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Arizona.


Ultrasounds show unborn babies at 20 weeks sucking their thumb, yawning, stretching and making faces.


Summary of Provisions:


The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would make it illegal for any person to perform, or attempt to perform, an abortion without first making a determination of the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child.


If the post-fertilization age of the unborn child is determined to be 20 weeks or greater, an abortion shall not be performed, unless –


  • It is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman;
  • The pregnancy is a result of rape and the woman has received medical treatment or counseling at least 48 hours prior to the abortion; or if she chooses to do so, has made a report to law enforcement; or
  • The pregnancy is a result of rape or incest against a minor and the abuse is reported to either social services or law enforcement.


In the case of the exceptions –


  • The abortion may only proceed in a manner that provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive unless that would pose a greater risk of death or serious bodily injury to the pregnant woman; and
  • The abortion provider must receive informed consent from the pregnant woman, certifying that she has been provided the child’s gestational age, a description of the law, and her rights under the law.


A woman on whom an abortion was performed in violation of this Act may bring a civil action against the abortion provider in court to recover damages.


Abortion doctors are required to submit annual data to the National Center for Health and Statistics providing statistical information about abortions carried out after 20 weeks post-fertilization age.


The criminal punishment for a violation of this Act by a provider is imprisonment of up to five years, fines, or both.


The bill makes clear that a woman who receives an illegal abortion in violation of this act may not be prosecuted.


The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Cornyn of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Lee of Utah,  Marco Rubio of Florida, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Risch of Idaho, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mike Braun of Indiana, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Boozman of Arkansas, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, David Perdue of Georgia, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Steve Daines of Montana, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Thune of South Dakota.