By Katherine Green Robertson
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would prohibit late-term abortions after 20 weeks based on scientific research suggesting that an unborn child can feel pain by this age, perhaps even earlier (an exception is included for instances of rape or incest). A previous version of the Act passed the House in 2013, but was not given a vote by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). With a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, proponents of the bill should have reason to be optimistic. Currently, 13 states, including Alabama, have a similar law in place. All of Alabama’s Republican Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors.
This time of year, as some celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, others–like the Alabama Policy Institute–observed Sanctity of Life Sunday. Based on our Biblical values, we believe that all lives–including the unborn–matter and that abortion represents a failure to recognize the value and worth of every life.
There is a strong correlation between the idea of human dignity and the sanctity of life, but it is not always acknowledged in politics. The President spent some time addressing human dignity last night in his State of the Union address. He said, “I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen–man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”
While the President did mention the young and old, his actions demonstrate that he did not intend to include the unborn in this list. The White House released a statement on Tuesday declaring that the President will likely veto the pro-life legislation that Congress will consider this week; this is despite the fact that polling continues to show that Americans favor the post-20-weeks abortion ban. In a November 2014 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 60% of voters nationwide said that they support the Act.
As we discussed last year during the push for pro-life legislation in Alabama, the pro-life platform is not a losing one. In addition to favorable public opinion polls, state-level action clearly indicates that it’s not just right-winged extremists who support legislation of this kind. Notably, the Democrat-controlled West Virginia legislature passed this bill last year; it was vetoed, but has already been reintroduced in the current session. It is highly possible that by year’s end, more states, including South Carolina, will be added to the 13 that already have a 20-weeks ban in place. Unfortunately, even on an issue that the majority of Americans seem to support, the President is posturing to quash these efforts.
While there is far from widespread agreement throughout the country on the general topic of abortion, this particular concept–banning abortions at the stage when an unborn child can feel pain–seems to strike a chord of reasonableness for many on both sides of the debate. Most of the Republicans who are now in office made campaign promises to defend life on the House or Senate floor, not just cast a half-hearted vote. They will soon be given an early opportunity to deliver on that promise.
Note: If you or someone you know is facing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, please take advantage of the resources offered by our friends at Sav-A-Life. Sav-A-Life is a non-profit, comprehensive pregnancy care ministry with multiple locations throughout the State of Alabama. For more information, go to: http://www.savalife.org
Katherine Robertson is the vice president for the Alabama Policy Institute (API), an independent non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families.