The pro-life movement may have scored a victory in the fight against abortion, but that victory may be short-lived.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, also known as Micah's Law, passed in the United States House of Representatives by a vote of 237 to 189. The act would officially ban abortion at 20-weeks or more as, at that time, research shows that an unborn baby can feel pain. The legislation does make exceptions in some cases:
(1) that is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or (2) when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. A physician who performs or attempts to perform an abortion under an exception must comply with specified requirements.
The Act also states that any doctor who is found to perform an abortion at 20-weeks or later, and if the case does not meet the criteria above, can face fines, prison time, or both. The bill also states that a woman will not be charged with a crime if they violate the legislation.
A violator is subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
A woman who undergoes a prohibited abortion may not be prosecuted for violating or conspiring to violate the provisions of this bill.
While passing this legislation in the Senate seems like common sense, it is not expected to pass as Senate Republicans will be unable to gather the 60 votes required to send the bill to President Trump's desk.
Congress is all too familiar with this piece of legislation as it was brought before them in 2013 and 2015. In 2015 it passed the House and went before the Senate, but it failed to receive an official vote. At the time, Democrats, being the minority party, filibustered the bill. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to invoke cloture, which would end debate on the legislation, but Republicans were unable to amass the 60 votes and the "motion to proceed" was withdrawn. The attempt to invoke cloture failed by a vote of 54-42. Three Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted with the majority of Republicans as they are pro-life Democrats. These three Democratic Senators are expected to vote for the legislation this time around as well.
Interestingly, two Republican Sens. voted no and another did not cast a vote in 2015. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) were the two no votes. In 2016, Sen. Kirk lost his seat to Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) did not cast a vote in favor for or against the legislation. Sens. Collins and Murkowski, along with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have been the "no votes" that have helped kill the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. It will be important to see how Sens. Collins and Sens. Murkowski vote even though they are not up for reelection in 2018.
People may wonder why Republicans did not introduce this legislation earlier in an attempt to pass it with a simple majority. According to Senate rules, any legislation during "budget reconciliation" had to involve the budget and fiscal policy that would advance their agenda.
One way that Republicans may be able to get this law passed is if they agree to work with Democrats on gun control legislation. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has now introduced legislation to ban "bump stocks," an attachment that the Las Vegas shooter used to turn his semi-automatic rifles into rapid firing machines that allowed him to kill 59 people and wound 527 more. If our senators talk to each other as we hope they do, maybe this compromise can be reached. The Democrats and Republicans can attempt to save lives by restricting the use of a device that would help an evil individual carry out mass carnage and Republicans will be able to save the lives of unborn children.
If this were to work, Republicans would certainly come out on the winning side.