By Sen. John Thune
Recently, the Senate took up a common-sense bill to protect human life, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would protect unborn children who have reached the age of 20 weeks – the age at which unborn children can feel pain – from being killed by abortion. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated in the Senate after just three Democrats joined Republicans in voting for this legislation.
It’s difficult for me to imagine how anyone could oppose this bill. Twenty weeks (about five months) into a pregnancy, the humanity of unborn babies is clearly visible. They have fingers and toes, eyebrows and eyelashes. They suck their thumbs. They yawn and stretch. They move around and make faces. They respond to noises. And they feel pain.
The scientific evidence on this point is incontrovertible: Five months into a pregnancy, the physical structure by which human beings experience pain is in place, and scientists can measure spikes in babies’ stress hormones when the babies are confronted with painful stimuli. In fact, some scientific evidence suggests that babies of this age feel pain even more keenly than adults do, since some of the neural mechanisms that inhibit pain don’t fully develop until after birth.
If there’s one thing all Americans ought to be able to agree on, it’s that unborn babies who feel pain deserve to be protected. Americans are rightly horrified by deliberate cruelty to animals – it is unthinkable that we allow unborn human beings who feel pain to be subjected to late-term abortion procedures that are so brutal it is difficult to even talk about them.
Thanks to advances in medical science, doctors and nurses in this country are saving babies who are born months early. A May 2015 article in the New York Times on advances in the treatment of extremely premature infants reported on one baby who was delivered at 22 weeks and 1 day and weighed 1.1 pounds at delivery, yet today is “a healthy 5-year-old.” Yet in the United States, our laws allow a baby of the very same age to be killed by abortion.
There are only seven countries in the world that allow elective abortion past five months of pregnancy. Among those countries are China, North Korea, and the United States. That’s not the company the United States should be keeping when it comes to protecting human rights.
And the American people agree. Polls show that a strong majority of Americans – including a strong majority of women – support banning elective abortions after five months of pregnancy.
Ultimately, it’s simple: That unborn baby – the one with the fingers and toes, who sucks her thumb and responds to her mother’s voice – that unborn baby is one of us, and as such she deserves to be protected. While I’m disappointed that the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to pass the Senate this time, the fight is not over.