WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amidst growing concern over the state of regulation of abortion services in the United States, the Senate has taken up consideration of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would place limitations on the practice of abortion for preborn children who can feel pain.
The measure is based on the scientific consensus that a child can feel pain at 20 weeks, or five months, after fertilization, and doctors regularly administer pain medication to an preborn child in second trimester fetal surgery, in addition to anesthesia.
Recently released videos by the Center for Medical Progress have raised questions about practices by the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, including possible illicit organ and tissue harvesting and sales. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican in the United States Senate, spoke on the Senate floor Monday on the bill:
This bill recognizes the indisputable fact that each of us, including each individual member of the U.S. Senate, was a living human being before we were born. This bill reflects the indispensable principle that each individual member of the human family has inherent dignity and worth Prohibiting the killing of innocent human beings who can feel pain is only a small step in the right direction, but it is a step that we must take.
Hatch also outlined how this legislation is consistent with Roe v. Wade:
This bill is consistent, in two different ways, with how the Supreme Court has set rules for abortion regulations in the past. In Roe v. Wade, the court drew a line at certain points in pregnancy reflecting something that the court found to be medically meaningful.
The end of the first trimester, the court said, was related to the relative safety of the abortion procedure. The end of the second trimester, the court said, marked the time when a preborn child could potentially live outside the womb, at least with artificial aid. The court said that these lines, which identify when certain abortion regulations are permissible, should be drawn “in the light of present medical knowledge.”
The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill recognizes an indisputable fact and stands for an indispensable principle. The fact is that each of us was a living human being before birth and the principle is that each human being has inherent dignity and worth.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade degraded the Constitution and the regime of virtually unrestricted abortion that it spawned continues to degrade our culture. It degraded the Constitution by reducing it to little more than a prop and using it as cover for imposing the opinions of individual Justices. This decision is perhaps the best example of what Justice Benjamin Curtis warned about in his dissenting opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. He wrote that when the opinions of individuals control the Constitution’s meaning, “we have a government which is merely…an exponent of the individual political opinions of the members of [the Supreme] Court.” That is exactly what Roe v. Wade is.
In addition to degrading the Constitution, the abortion regime spawned by Roe and maintained by its progeny continues to degrade our culture. This effect is inevitable because that regime is built on the dark proposition that humanity itself has no inherent worth that demands respect and that individual members of the human family can be killed for any reason at any time before birth.
It was not always like this. Just 25 years before Roe v. Wade, the United States voted for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The very first statement in its preamble recognizes “the inherent dignity and…the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life.
And just two years after the U.S. Supreme Court created an unlimited right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany came to a very different conclusion. Reviewing a law that allowed abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the German court said that human life is the supreme value in the constitutional order and “the vital basis for human dignity and the prerequisite of all other basic rights.”
What a contrast. The United States degraded human dignity by striking down a law protecting preborn children. Germany promoted human dignity by striking down a law endangering preborn children. Our Supreme Court said that a preborn child is not a person under the U.S. Constitution and would not even address whether that child is a living human being. The German court said that every human individual possessing life is covered by the German constitution, including preborn human beings.
One of the most successful cover-ups in legal and social history has misled Americans into believing either that abortion is not legal for any reason at any time in this country or that this radical abortion regime is the norm around the world. Neither is true. Today, the United States is one of only seven nations in the entire world to allow elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other members of that club include China and North Korea.
The bill before us would prohibit the unjustified killing in the womb of human beings who can feel pain. The bill recognizes three justifications: when the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother and when the pregnancy resulted from rape or from incest against a minor. This bill would do nothing more than move the United States a step away from the most extreme abortion position in the world.
The Supreme Court may be preventing us from upholding in law the inherent dignity of all human beings before birth. That does not mean, however, that we should not defend that dignity for as many members of the human family as we can. That is why I support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act before us today.
This bill is consistent, in two different ways, with how the Supreme Court has set rules for abortion regulations in the past. In Roe v. Wade, the Court drew a line at certain points in pregnancy reflecting something that the Court found to be medically meaningful. The end of the first trimester, the Court said, was related to the relative safety of the abortion procedure. The end of the second trimester, the Court said, marked the time when a preborn child could potentially live outside the womb, at least with artificial aid. The Court said that these lines, which identify when certain abortion regulations are permissible, should be drawn “in the light of present medical knowledge.”
That is exactly what this bill does. As its findings state, there is substantial medical evidence that a preborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier. This is not a recent discovery. Americans United for Life, for example, published a monograph more than 30 years ago reviewing the medical evidence. Dr. Vincent Collins, Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Illinois, wrote that the entire sensory nervous system is functioning well before the 20-week point.
More recently, Dr. Maureen Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, has testified before Congress and written that the scientific evidence regarding fetal pain is undisputed. That evidence shows that the brain circuitry responsible for the detection and response to pain is established well before the 20-week mark.
This bill is consistent with precedent in another way. The Supreme Court has approved actually prohibiting abortion after a point when the preborn child takes on an important quality that justifies protection. In Roe v. Wade, that quality was viability, or the ability to survive outside the womb with artificial aid.
In this bill, that quality is the ability to feel pain, which has been universally recognized as compelling. Both medicine and the law, for example, impose a duty to relieve or to avoid pain. Just look at the Website of the National Institutes of Health. It includes an article by Dr. Eric J. Cassell, Professor of Public Health at the Cornell University Medical College. He writes that the obligation of physicians to relieve human suffering stretches back into antiquity and he calls relief of suffering “one of the primary ends of medicine.”
The clinical guidelines for acute pain published by the federal government state that “the ethical obligation to manage pain and relieve the patient’s suffering is at the core of a health-care professional’s commitment.” The American Academy of Pain Medicine has published an Ethics Charter which outlines how physicians must implement “the ethical imperative to provide relief from pain.”
If medical professionals have a fundamental obligation to relieve human suffering, they should be prohibited from imposing human suffering before birth.
In its most recent abortion decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that certain ethical and moral concerns can justify a specific abortion prohibition. The prevention of intentional pain and suffering, the very core and one of the primary ends of medicine, certainly qualifies and justifies the policy in this bill.
Turning to the law, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Federal courts across the country are considering whether the drugs used in lethal injection cause extreme or unnecessary pain and, therefore, violate the Eighth Amendment. Some have said that it does.
If the infliction of pain can make executing the guilty unconstitutional, I believe that the infliction of pain should make aborting the innocent illegal.
Or look at the civil side of the law. Juries award multi-million dollar verdicts against medical professionals and facilities for failing to relieve pain in their patients. One article in the Western Journal of Medicine reviewing such cases concluded that “there is a standard of care for pain management, a significant departure from which constitutes not merely medical malpractice but gross negligence.”
If failing to prevent pain in the sick can make a physician liable, physicians should be prohibited from inflicting pain on healthy children before birth.
Mr. President, I began by saying that Roe v. Wade and the abortion regime that it spawned has degraded both the law and our culture. I am echoing the thoughtful words of President Ronald Reagan who in 1983 published an essay titled Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation. He wrote that abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution but was an act of raw judicial power. And he wrote: “We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life – the unborn – without diminishing the value of all human life.”
The American people have embraced this view. By more than two-to-one, Americans support what this bill would do, prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, and the percentage of women supporting a 20-week ban is even higher than the national average.
I think that opponents of this legislation owe the American people an explanation. Why does a physician’s ethical duty to prevent pain begin only when someone is born? Why shouldn’t that duty begin when someone can feel pain?
Why do we care so much about preventing even the most despicable criminals from feeling pain but turn a blind eye to the pain inflicted on innocent preborn children?
The Supreme Court has said from the beginning that the right to abortion must be balanced with other compelling interests. Why does medical knowledge matter when it facilitates abortions but not when it can prevent the pain caused by abortion?
This bill recognizes the indisputable fact that each of us, including each individual member of the U.S. Senate, was a living human being before we were born. This bill reflects the indispensable principle that each individual member of the human family has inherent dignity and worth. Prohibiting the killing of innocent human beings who can feel pain is only a small step in the right direction, but it is a step that we must take.”
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