The debate over the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the lack of debate over the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act show how both parties are only half-way towards understanding the abortion crisis in America. We can and should protect both unborn children and their mothers.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after 20 weeks, should be passed. A majority of countries in Europe prohibit abortion after 13 weeks. Given that information, a 20-week ban seems very reasonable.
It is not enough to simply ban abortion after 20 weeks. Congress should consider providing legal support for mothers by passing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. As John Oliver so wisely observed on Last Week Tonight, this is the best way to honor our mothers.
Abortion-rights groups have pushed the notion that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is some radical infringement to trample the rights of women. However, limiting abortion after 20 weeks is not a radical position, but very much mainstream. What is radical is the Democratic Party’s official position against the legislation and the party’s advocacy for abortion up through the ninth month of pregnancy. Polls consistently indicate overwhelming opposition to abortions after the first trimester. A majority of women, even Democratic women, millennials, and Hispanics support a 20-week ban over a 24-week ban.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is scheduled to be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. It will most likely pass the House because there is a pro-life majority. But what then? The U.S. Senate is more beholden to the abortion-rights lobby, and it is highly unlikely that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would even allow such a vote. But he should.
Progressive Democrats should be leading this effort to protect both women and children. Progressive politics calls for environmental protection, worker protection, consumer protection, and protection from disease. This is an opportunity to extend that protection to pregnant women.
Science has advanced dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion should be legal up until 24 weeks. The window into the womb has shown fetal development far more advanced than we once thought. Advances in medicine have provided medical miracles to save these tiny lives. The limits of fetal viability established in Roe v. Wade over 40 years ago are being challenged.
The New York Times recently ran a story (Premature Babies May Survive at 22 Weeks if Treated, Study Finds, May 6, 2015) challenging the 24- week limit on providing health care to premature babies who, if treated, can survive outside the womb. They noted that there is a lack of consistency in treatment for those premature infants who are born before the 24-week viability limit. At one hospital your premature infant may receive care, while at another he or she will be denied basic care because she or he is not deemed viable.
In another scenario, a pregnant woman at 22-to-24 weeks can seek to end the life of her viable infant. The only option is taking the child apart limb by limb. Why would a pregnant woman subject herself and her child to that procedure? Mostly because our culture fails to support women and children. Self-reporting of pregnant women shows that they choose these desperate measures because of coercion and lack of societal support.
It is time for Washington to catch up with science and address the societal coercion for pregnant women to abort. Protecting viable infants and providing paid leave for mothers of newborns are small steps in the right direction.