In a roll call Tuesday (July 31), the House voted 220-154 for the District of Columbia Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required for passage. The bill came to the floor for a vote under "suspension of the rules," which mandates a super-majority for approval.
The legislation would prohibit abortions in the District of Columbia at 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point. If enacted, it would provide a restriction in a jurisdiction that has legalized abortion throughout pregnancy until birth. In its findings, the bill points out the D.C. council "repealed all limitations on abortion at any stage of pregnancy" in 2004.
Congress has authority over the District of Columbia under the U.S. Constitution.
The typical method of abortion at about 20 weeks into the child's development is dilation and evacuation, which involves the use of a clamp or forceps to tear off parts of the unborn baby's body for removal from the womb. A suction tube normally is used to remove any remaining pieces of the child's body.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations urged adoption of the legislation.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, marveled in a written statement that 154 House members "endorsed an absolutist policy of abortion on-demand, for any reason, up to the moment of birth. These Representatives are out of step with the majority of Americans who support protecting unborn children capable of feeling excruciating pain of an abortionist's instruments."
The House's failure to approve the bill came a day after a federal judge upheld an even more stringent, pain-capable ban in Arizona. Judge James Teilborg said the state has demonstrated a "legitimate interest" in restricting abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is 18 weeks post-fertilization.
In the House roll call, 203 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted for the bill, while six GOP members joined 148 Democrats in opposing it. Fifty-five representatives failed to vote, and two voted "present."
Seven states have similar pain-capable abortion bans, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Compiled by Tom Strode, the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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