Pain-Capable Bill Clears First Legislative Hurdle
WASHINGTON -- A bill to protect unborn babies older than 20 weeks has passed its first hurdle.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Wednesday evening, 242 to 184. Almost every Republican voted for it and almost every Democrat against it.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, trumpeted the act as being quite consequential.
"H.R. 36 is the most pro-life legislation ever to come before this body," the top Republican said of the bill.
During heated debate before the vote, Democrats and Republicans took up familiar positions.
Many Democrats said they had to protect America's women and those women's right to make their own medical decisions. Republicans said they had to protect the most unprotected of classes: America's unborn children.
"We have no higher obligation than to speak out for those who can't speak for themselves, to defend the defenseless," Boehner stated on the House floor. "And that's what this bill does."
Bill sponsor Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said, "We have given these little babies less legal protection from unnecessary cruelty than the protection we have given farm animals under the Federal Humane Slaughter Act."
Democrats avoided talking about the babies, but concentrated on women who get abortions.
"Now I remember the days of back alley abortions," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said. "Many women died and more were permanently injured before Roe vs. Wade. With this egregious bill, Republicans have once again decided to take us back there."
A Democrat who's a doctor said he and his pregnant patients -- not Congress -- must decide what's best for those pregnant women.
"That is sacred to the oath that I swore when I became a doctor," Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., said. "This bill will make it criminal for me to do my job as a doctor."
Bera added, "This is a bad bill -- massive government overreach. Vote against this bill. Let us do our job as doctors."
But a Republican who was also in medicine put the emphasis back on the babies.
"I practiced OB anesthesia for over 20 years," Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said. "I was always amazed that in the labor and delivery suite, we would deliver 21-week post-fertilization babies, and down the corridor, you would abort them."
Some Republicans have fretted taking up legislation banning any kind of abortions that might offend women and young voters. But other Republicans insist the public, including women and young voters, are on their side in voting for this particular ban.
"There was a recent poll that 57 percent of Millennials support this legislation," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said. "And they echo the voice of America. Sixty percent of Americans -- Democrats, Republican, Independents -- support the Pain-Capable Act."
House Democrats still blasted the bill.
"We must defeat this unconstitutional bill and continue to afford women their constitutional right enjoyed by every man without question to make decisions about their healthcare in the privacy of their doctors' offices," Rep. Gerald Nadler, D-N.Y., said.
And Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., maligned House Republicans, saying, "After four decades of settled law, some of my colleagues still refuse to cede women their constitutional right and the autonomy and human dignity that goes with being allowed to make your own decisions about your own body."
Republicans insisted passing this bill and saving these unborn babies is the essence of Congress' work.
"We have a moral obligation in this country to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah. "It is time that we do our job."
"It's time for the members of the United States Congress to open our eyes and our souls and remember that protecting those who cannot protect themselves is why we are all here," Franks said.
Still, passage in the U.S. House where pro-life Republicans dominate will be the easiest hurdle for this abortion ban becoming law. It now faces an uncertain future in the Senate, but an almost certain veto at the hands of President Barack Obama.
The White House has labeled it "an assault on a woman's right to choose."