Republican Senator Graham Introduces Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

War on WomenSome Republican politicians
evidently believe that fighting the Culture War is a winning
electoral strategy. Consequently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is
introducing a bill with co-sponsors Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of
pregnancy. From

A recent Quinnipiac poll
55 percent of voters support the 20-week limit, one of a
slew of polls that have Republicans betting that late-term abortion
will unite the GOP in ways other issues don’t.

Of course, it’s not about elections.

Graham said in an interview that the legislation is less about
politics, more about conscience.

“The government has a legitimate interest in protecting the
unborn child over the 20-week period because they are capable of
feeling pain and the scientific evidence is overwhelming,” Graham
said. “When you do surgery on a 20-week baby, you provide
anesthesia because of pain.”

Back in July, I delved into the scientific question of “Do
Fetuses Feel Pain?
” It turns out that most of the medical
groups that have considered the issue have concluded that it is
highly unlikely that fetuses can have a conscious experience of
pain before the third trimester of development. For example, I
noted a study by the United Kingdom’s Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) on the topic: 

The RCOG’s report,
Fetal Awareness: A Review of Research and Recommendations for
was issued in March 2010. “In reviewing the
neuroanatomical and physiological evidence in the fetus,” it found,
“it was apparent that connections from the periphery [of the fetal
body] to the cortex are not intact before 24 weeks of gestation
and, as most neuroscientists believe that the cortex is necessary
for pain perception, it can be concluded that the fetus cannot
experience pain in any sense prior to this gestation.” In other
words, while fetuses can react to pain, at the 24-week stage of
brain development there is no subject present that is capable of
experiencing pain.

The RCOG report also found that even after 24 weeks of
development, fetuses abide “in a continuous sleep-like
unconsciousness or sedation” that “can suppress higher cortical
activation in the presence of intrusive external stimuli.” Since
fetuses cannot experience pain before 24 weeks, the RCOG recommends
against administering pain-relieving drugs when treating fetuses in
the womb except in cases when it’s necessary to immobilize

In other words, the senators are justifiying their legislation
using statements that are very likely to be scienifically

In any case, what percentage of abortions occur after 20 weeks
now? As I reported:

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention says that in 2009, 64 percent
of abortions
were performed before 8 weeks’ gestation, and 91.7
percent before 13 weeks. Seven percent were performed between 14
and 20 weeks, and just 1.3 percent after 21 weeks. Out of 784,000
abortions, just over 10,000 were performed after 21 weeks’
gestation. There are not good data on why some women wait until
after 21 weeks before choosing abortion, but
two likely reasons
come to mind: a prenatal discovery of
fetal abnormalities
, and embarrassed
adolescent denial

Naturally, proponents of a woman’s right to choose are pushing
back. I received an emailed
from Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a
national women’s advocacy organization declaring:

“When politicians introduce these inhumane bans on abortions,
they are tying the hands of doctors who want to help couples going
through heartbreaking situations like serious fetal anomalies. Less
than 2% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and many of them are
wanted pregnancies that are just too dangerous or unhealthy to
continue. Sen. Graham’s bill criminalizing women’s reproductive
choices after 20 weeks does not make women or our families safer or
healthier. We urge members of the Senate to reject this extreme
bill and stand up for the rights of American women.”

The Politico article concludes:

Democrats are more than willing to have the debate, seeing the
issue as an electoral loser for Republicans.

Even if the polls now show 55 percent support for banning
abortion after 20 weeks, I have every confidence that tone-deaf and
ham-fisted rhetoric by Republican pols in Congress will soon turn
this around.

from Hit & Run

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