The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation that would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, passed the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 3.
The legislation makes exceptions for instances in which a mother’s life would be at risk and cases which involve either incest or rape. The bill passed with a vote of 237 for and 189 against.
Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances, according to Planned Parenthood.
“So often we get caught up in the policies of this issue and we forget that these are babies, for goodness sake,” said Alabama Republican Rep. Martha Roby, when she spoke on the house floor. “They feel pain and we need to protect them.”
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., tweeted, “It’s science: unborn babies feel pain by at least 20 weeks. Late, dismemberment abortions are too extreme for America. #TheyFeelPain”
Many medical professionals, however, argue otherwise. A human fetus doesn’t have the capacity to feel pain until viability and scientific studies have shown that the connections needed to signal pain do not develop until at least 24 weeks of gestation according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a nonprofit organization of more than 58,000 members.
ACOG strongly opposes the attempts to ban abortion through medically unnecessary cutoff points, according to a statement released on their website on Oct. 3.
“Abortion is a touchy, scary topic, but so is being forced to carry to term a fetus who could never survive outside the womb,” Lewis and Clark student Stephanie Larson said. “These kinds of decisions are really complicated and difficult, and I think they should be left up to a woman and her doctor, and if she believes in God, him too. Not with lawmakers.”
For many women, the question of government being involved in their reproductive rights is a difficult topic.
“When it comes to a question of legislating morality, we need to be very careful not to take away people’s right to make their own moral decisions,” said Larson.
The legislation is now in the senate, but may not be considered any time soon.