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Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

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The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36) is one of the most crucial pieces of pro-life legislation since the passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.  This legislation not only protects babies who are five months in the womb and can feel excruciating pain; it also protects women who are at an increasingly greater risk of experiencing the harmful effects of late-term abortion.

This legislation protects unborn children after 20 weeks gestation, or five months of pregnancy, based on their ability to feel excruciating pain:

  • At 5 months, a baby has fingernails, its own unique fingerprints, eyebrows and eyelashes.  The baby can suck its thumb and recognize its mother’s voice; he or she will actually startle with loud noises.
  • There is substantial evidence that babies at 20 weeks gestation feel excruciating pain.  Prominent neuroscientists, pain specialists and two past presidents of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as numerous medical studies confirm that the unborn child does feel and react to pain.
  • According to medical experts, a baby’s pain system at 20 weeks gestation is fully developed; the baby’s higher-level pain-modifying systems have barely begun to develop, leaving them to feel excruciating pain — even more pain than most adults would likely experience.
  • With modern technology, surgeons performing corrective procedures on 20-week-old, unborn babies in the womb have been able to see the babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.
  • The most common form of abortion for a baby at 20 weeks is a dismemberment abortion, where a long-toothed, steel clamp grabs parts of the baby’s body and tears it apart piece by piece.
  • Another common abortion technique for a baby at 20 weeks is a technique in which doctors inject chemicals into the baby’s heart to induce cardiac arrest.
  • Thirteen states have enacted limits since 2010 based on the unborn child’s ability to feel pain.

This legislation protects women’s health:

  • According to a report issued by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, for a woman having an abortion performed on her during her 12th or 13th week of pregnancy, the likelihood of a complication is between 3-6 percent.  Once the woman is well into her second trimester, the complication rate increases to 50 percent, and possibly higher.
  • Late-term abortions have caused increased mental and physical health problems in women.
  • This legislation does not apply in instances where the mother’s life is at risk.

The Leader of the Free World is one of just seven countries that allow abortions past 20 weeks or 5 months:

  • The United States is one of only seven nations that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks gestation.  The other six nations are Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • According to an article in the Daily Caller written in February 2014, the United States is within the top 4 percent of most permissive countries on abortion policies.

The American people, especially women, broadly support this legislation:

  • According to The Polling Company’s nationwide poll in March 2013, 64 percent of Americans believe abortions should not be allowed if the baby can feel pain.
  • Recent polls by Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post/ABC News all revealed: A majority of Americans support limiting abortion after 20 weeks gestation. Sixty percent of women think abortion after that point should be illegal.


*Updated May 11, 2015