Surprise: White House Unlikely to Sign Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Into Law

Daniel Doherty
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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 7:30 AM
Surprise: White House Unlikely to Sign Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Into Law

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is fraught with controversy. Put simply, the bill would prohibit abortions after five months gestation – the threshold after which unborn babies feel pain – in order to rein in the number of lives lost to late-term abortion each year. Increasingly, poll after poll shows voters are rejecting late-term abortion as a viable and safe option for terminating a pregnancy.

That being said, the White House hinted last night that the bill would basically never earn the president’s approval.  National Journal has the scoop:

Just hours before Tuesday night's State of the Union address, the White House has issued veto threats involving two bills, including House Republicans' Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

"The administration strongly opposes H.R. 36, which would unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman's right to choose," the White House said in a statement. "Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor."

Nevertheless, Republicans are reportedly moving full speed ahead:

Congressional Republicans are fast-tracking legislation that would prohibit abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, with the House likely to bring the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act up for a vote on Jan. 22 to coincide with the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in the weeks to come is expected introduce a version in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised he would bring it to a vote.

This is making liberals very nervous. Only yesterday, for example, the New York Times editorial board released a blistering op-ed inveighing against the life-affirming bill, warning that women would suffer the consequences if and when it became federal law:

On Thursday, the House is expected to vote on the deceptively named Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona. This measure would prohibit almost all abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, flouting the Supreme Court’s standard of fetal viability, generally put at 22 to 24 weeks post-fertilization.

It has other problems, too. It contains no exception to protect a woman’s health, as current law mandates, or for the majority of rapes and incest crimes that go unreported. Its dangerously constricted exception for situations in which a woman’s life is in jeopardy would require women to wait until their condition becomes life-threatening before terminating a pregnancy. And it would force women to decide whether to go forward with a pregnancy before learning of a major fetal abnormality or serious risks to their own health.

In other words, the bill isn't perfect. Most bills aren't. Still, according to one of the bill's lead co-sponsors, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), if adopted the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act could save tens of thousands of lives:

"More than 18,000 'very late term' abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America. These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia. Many of them cry and scream as they die, but because it is amniotic fluid going over their vocal cords instead of air, we don't hear them.

"Late term Abortion in America has its defenders, but no true or principled defense. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act seeks to afford basic protection to mothers and their unborn children entering the sixth month of gestation.["]

Be that as it may, the bill is unlikely to be codified in federal law until a pro-life Republican occupies the White House.

That, of course, is the reality of politics.