WASHINGTON—A bill that would ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks gestation is quietly moving in the U.S. House of Representatives and could reach the House floor as early as next week.
The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act by a 20-12 margin. The vote fell along party lines, except for Pedro Pierluisi, the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, who caucuses with Democrats and voted in favor of the legislation.
“It is time to welcome young children who can feel pain into the human family,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “I am pleased the committee has approved this important legislation and look forward to a House vote on this bill soon.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he would bring the bill to the House floor for a vote before the Fourth of July recess—and possibly as early as next week. The Senate, where Democrats hold a 54-46 advantage, is not expected to consider the legislation.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., originally filed the legislation in May as the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act, but he later amended the bill to apply to the rest of the country. It comes as liberal members of Congress get behind a dead-end effort to clamp down on pregnancy resource centers.
Democrats offered three amendments to H.R. 1797, all of which would have added exceptions to the ban for either health reasons or in cases of rape or incest.
While speaking against the rape-related amendment, Franks said the incidents of rape leading to pregnancy are “very low.” The comment prompted media outlets—many of which had previously ignored the bill—to compare Franks to former Senate candidate Todd Akin, whose similar comments likely cost him a winnable election against Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
The Democratic National Committee also sent out an email blasting the comment. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said Franks remark was “astonishing,” but Democrats didn’t explain why five months wasn’t enough time for victims of rape to make a decision about an abortion.
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for disgraced abortionist Kermit Gosnell, recently said he believes the cutoff for abortion should be lowered to 16 weeks. Those who are “pro-choice would have still the right to choose, but they gotta choose quicker,” he told Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
Franks chose the 20-week threshold for the ban because medical research has shown unborn babies can feel pain at that point, and possibly sooner, in a pregnancy.
“Delivered or not, babies are babies, and it has been shown that they can feel pain at least by 20 weeks,” Goodlatte said.