2017-JAN: Introduction of the U.S. Federal
Unborn Child Protection Act"
Drawing of a human fetus
2017-JAN-03: The federal "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" is introduced into the House:
Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced this bill as H.R.36. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and then to the Committe's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. The bill was passed by a recorded vote in the full House (237 to 189 with seven non voting) on OCT-04. It was then forwarded to the Senate. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, the bill would prohibit all abortions performed after 20 weeks following conception, except under very limited circumstances. The stated rationale by the authors of the bill is the belief that the a fetus 20 weeks or older following conception can feel pain. Thus, they feel that the processes involved in performing an abortion would be intolerably painful to the fetus.
If found guilty, the individual performing or attempting the abortion would receive a fine and/or a jail sentence of up to five years in prison.
The bill is called "Micah's Law" because, 5 years previously, a boy, Micah Pickering, was born prematurely at 20 weeks gestation. He is one of the youngest fetuses to ever survive in a healthy state. 2
The bill calls for the following procedure to be followed before any abortion is performed:
The age of the embryo or fetus must first be estimated. Most abortions are sought during the first trimester, when an ultrasound or brief inspection of the woman's body would show that the embryo or fetus certainly met the 20 week requirement for an abortion under this bill.
The age is expressed in weeks and can be calculated in two ways: either:
The Gestational Age, which is calcuiated as the number of weeks since the first day of the mother's last menstrual period, or
The Fertilization Age (a.k.a. the Post Fertilization Age, the Embryonic Age and later in gestation, the Fetal Age). It is calculated from the date of conception, which is usually unknown, but can be estimated from the Gestational Age or from an ultrasound scan.
If the Fetal Age is equal or greater than 20 weeks (i.e. the Gestational Age is equal or greater than about 22 weeks) then the bill would forbid an abortion unless:
The abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or
The abortion is the result of a rape of an adult woman and she has received counseling or medical treatment, or
The abortion is the result of rape or incest of a minor which has been reported to a child abuse agency or police.
The bill would require that every attempt be made to deliver the fetus alive and to preserve its life and health as is done for a natural birth, unless that would cause a significant risk to the mother's life or is a risk of causing her a "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major" physical bodily function. 2
Only about 1% of abortions are sought at this stage in pregnancy. They are normally sought because of evidence that the fetus is genetically defective. Thus the overall abortion rate would be little effected by this law if it is passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.
The rationale for the bill is to save human fetuses from pain during an abortion. However, the authors of the bill missed one important point. The bill allows abortions -- under some circumstances -- to be performed at or after 20 weeks without first anesthasizing the fetus. They could have easily added to the bill a requirement that any operation on a fetus -- abortion or otherwise -- at or after 20 weeks post conception can only be performed after the fetus is first anaesthetized so that it could not feel pain. But, they didn't.
This is such an obvious and needed addition. It causes me to suspect that the main motivation behind the bill was to reduce the number of late-term abortions rather than save the fetus from pain.
You Tube video: Sponsors of the bill discuss the bill at its introduction to the Senate:
How the Gestational and Fetal Ages of a fetus are estimated:
The sequence of events starting at sexual intercourse and leading up to childbirth are normally:
A single ovum is released by the woman's ovary. This happens about 2 weeks after the first day of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP) prior to pregnancy.
One very lucky spermatozoon, contributed by a male, fertilizes the ovum which is then referred to as a zygote or pre-embryo. Most religious conservatives consider this to be the start of pregnancy.
About two-thirds of human embryos do not survive. They die within a week and are expelled from the body, 4 generally without the woman being aware that conception had happened. Thus, a typical woman who has given birth has had an average of two unknown miscarriages per successful birth.
A few days later, the pre-embryo has divided into many individual cells, and is called a blastocyst. It reaches the uterus, and implants itself in the inner wall of the womb. Medical professionals and most others who are not religious conservatives regard this event as the beginning of pregnancy.
A pregnancy hormone known as hCG starts to enter the woman's bloodstream. In a few weeks, the level of hCG becomes high enough to be detected by a pregnancy test. 5