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Rep. Trent Franks
Associated Press/Photo by Matt York
Rep. Trent Franks

Abortion wars

Abortion | Two House bills highlight the deep divide in Washington over protecting unborn children

WASHINGTON—Arizona Sen. John McCain and other moderate Republicans pointed to ill-fated abortion comments as one reason the GOP lost the 2012 elections and suggested conservative lawmakers should "leave the issue alone" in the future. 

Six months later, one of McCain's fellow Arizona lawmakers is leading the charge to do exactly the opposite: Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has introduced a bill that would ban all abortions in the United States after 20 weeks gestation. 

Franks, chairman of the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, will hold a hearing on the legislation Thursday. 

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The new bill is an expansion of the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Protection Act, which Franks filed last month with more than 90 co-sponsors after the pro-life group Live Action recorded Washington abortionist Cesare Santangelo saying he wouldn't help children born through botched abortions. Current law allows legal abortion for any reason in the nation’s capital, until the moment of birth. 

"When the subject is related in any way to abortion, the doors of reason and human compassion in our minds and hearts often close," Franks said. "But I pray we can at least come together to agree that we can and should draw the line at the point that these innocent babies can feel the excruciating pain of these brutal procedures."

The new bill comes one week after a Philadelphia jury sentenced abortionist Kermit Gosnell to three life terms in prison for, among many other charges, killing three newborn babies by snipping their spinal cords. Pro-life leaders have expressed optimism that the Gosnell trial and other clinic revelations will serve as a turning point in the country's acceptance of abortion. 

“The greatest tragedy is that Kermit Gosnell is not alone," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of pro-life group the Susan B. Anthony List. "Exploitation of women and complete disregard for their health and well-being are problems endemic to the entire abortion industry … Now is the moment to realize that abortion is neither safe, nor rare."

However, some Democrats appear to be in an alternate universe: In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to expand the legality of late-term abortions and relax regulations on abortion providers in the state. He wants the Women’s Equality Act passed before the current legislative session ends on June 20.

In Washington, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.,  and Democratic New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez introduced bicameral legislation to crack down on crisis pregnancy centers. 

"Women shouldn't be deliberately misled or coerced when they seek legitimate medical services," said Maloney, who accused crisis pregnancy centers of practicing "bait-and-switch" methods to attract women. 

Maloney has 11 co-sponsors for her House bill, which is similar to legislation she has filed previously and again has little chance of going anywhere. The bill gives the Federal Trade Commission authority to investigate crisis pregnancy centers accused of using deceptive tactics.

Pro-lifers are optimistic Franks' bill could pass the Republican-controlled House, but it faces a much steeper climb in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 55-45 advantage. Even if it survived both chambers, President Barack Obama would be waiting with his veto pen. 

However, the ban on partial-birth abortion could provide a blueprint for success: Pro-life advocates began pushing for it in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, and eight years later, President George W. Bush signed it into law.

Pro-abortion groups were quick to slam Franks and his legislation: “Gosnell was a criminal whose activities were made possible by the very kind of anti-choice policies Franks is advancing," the pro-abortion group NARAL said in a statement. “We will fight this senseless attack and protect the rights of all women.”

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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