Today, in the nation's capital, the District of Columbia, there is no limit whatever on abortion. It is legal to the very moment of birth.
No more than five nations in the world have a legal policy that is this extreme.
Today, at 4 PM EDT, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold a hearing on an NRLC-backed bill that would protect unborn children in the District after they have reached 20 weeks fetal age -- the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803).
To read a general Media Advisory issued by NRLC on this hearing and the legislation, click here. Below, we provide some more detailed background information that you may find useful, and guidance on how you can help pass this vtal legislation.
The reason that abortion is legal to the moment of birth in the federal capital is that a body known as the "District Council," which operates on authority delegated by Congress, completely repealed the local abortion law. But the responsibility for changing that rests entirely with the Congress -- and the President. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provides that Congress shall "exercise exclusive jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever, over such District . . ."
H.R. 3803 was introduced by Congressman Trent Franks (R-Az.), who is also the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. The bill is based on an NRLC-model bill, first developed in 2010 and already enacted in six states. In the bill, Congress adopts "findings" (declarations of fact) that by 20 weeks after fertilization (if not earlier), the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain. The bill then prohibits abortion after that point, except when an acute physical condition endangers the life of the mother.
Now that the extreme abortion policy in the District has been brought to the attention of Congress, the issue boils down to this: Any lawmaker who does not approve of unlimited legal abortion until the moment of birth would be well advised to vote for this bill. A vote against H.R. 3803 will be scored by NRLC as a vote to ratify a policy of unlimited legal abortion until the moment of birth. On this issue, no Member of Congress can shift responsibility to any other political body -- Article I of the Constitution makes it crystal clear that the responsibility rests entirely with Congress -- and the President.
This debate is not about symbolism, but brutal reality. Not far from the White House, an abortion clinic sells abortions on request (credit cards or cash only) up to 24 weeks fetal age (which is 26 weeks in the "LMP" ob-gyn dating system, counting from the last menstrual period, about the beginning of the sixth month), by the "D&E" dismemberment method, which involves tearing off the baby's arms and legs by brute force. The method is depicted in a medical illustration posted on our website here. It will also be graphically described at today's hearing by Dr. Anthony Levatino, who at one time performed many such abortions.
Ironically, in the District of Columbia (as in many jurisdictions), there are severe penalties in place for cruelty to animals. Under Section 22-1001 of the District's criminal code, a prison sentence of up to 5 years is possible for cruelty to a cat, dog, guinea pig, or other animal (defined to include "all living and sentient creatures (human beings excepted)."
The hearing will begin at 4 PM Eastern Daylight Time. You can watch the hearing on the internet on the Judiciary Committee website at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/Hearings%202012/hear_05172012_2.html
Testifying at today's hearing will be Dr. Anthony Levatino, an obstetrician-gynecologist who at one time performed many D&E abortions but who now opposes abortion; Dr. Colleen Malloy, a neonatologist from Northwestern University who will testify regarding the pain perception capacities of babies who are born very prematurely; and Dr. Byron Calhoun, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at West Virginia University specializing in maternal and fetal medicine, who will testify regarding humane medical approaches to cases in which an unborn child is diagnosed with a genetic disorder or other serious medical condition. Also testifying will be an opponent of the bill, Christy Zink of Washington, D.C., who had an abortion after learning that her unborn son had a malformed brain. The written statements submitted by the witnesses will be available on the Judiciary Committee website (and on the NRLC website), but to see the question and answer portions of the hearing, you will have to watch the video, either during the live feed or after the fact.
The Constitution Subcommittee will not vote on H.R. 3803 today. Instead, the full House Judiciary Committee will hold a voting session (called a "markup") on the bill on a future date that has not yet been announced.
The progress of H.R. 3803 to the House floor may be enhanced if the bill obtains 218 cosponsors (a majority of House members). Currently the official list of House cosponsors stands at 194. Please check the list of cosponsors, arranged by state, on the NRLC website here. If any House member from your area has not yet cosponsored, please telephone his Washington, D.C., and in-district offices to urge that he or she promptly do so.
To reach the easy-to-use e-mail tool on the NRLC website, which will allow you to rapidly send suggested messages to your federal representative(s) by e-mail, please click here.
NRLC does not regard its House scorecard for the 112th Congress as being complete until the House has voted on H.R. 3803 -- but any House member may "vote early," so to speak, by cosponsoring the bill. Once the committees have completed work on the bill, however, additional cosponsors may no longer be added.
The NRLC website contains much documentation on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and on the scientific evidence that unborn children, by 20 weeks if not before, have the capacity to experience great pain, here.
To read NRLC's latest letter to House members on this bill, click here.
Identical legislation (S. 2103) has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). A list of current cosponsors is here.
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Source: National Right to Life