Congressional Action on Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Friday, 03 November 2017 - 


On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the United States House of Representatives passed the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” by a vote of 237-189. Afterward, the legislation was introduced in the United States Senate. While the legislation has no chance of passing through the Senate, the bill’s passage in the House marks a significant pro-life victory and sheds further light on the brutality of abortion.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is legislation that prohibits abortion beyond 20 weeks gestation, except in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The rationale for banning abortion at this point is the scientific fact that the unborn child certainly feels pain by 20 weeks gestational age. Notably, the scientific research on this issue reveals that the unborn child may feel pain as early as 12 weeks gestational age.

In his testimony to the House of Representatives, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, noted that “[a]lthough we [the Church] want, and will continue to work for, protections in law for human life from the beginning of its existence, for several reasons we think the proposed ban on abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice.’”

Cardinal Dolan discussed the widespread support for opposition to late-term abortions, especially in light of the pernicious actions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and the harvesting and selling of fetal body parts that has been unveiled by David Daleiden.

Cardinal Dolan also pointed out the current flawed standard of “viability.” Under US Supreme Court case law, viability of an unborn child marks the line-in-the-sand regarding when abortion regulations may constitute a so-called “undue burden” on a mother’s right to abortion. His Eminence illustrated the untenable and irrational nature of this standard by recognizing ongoing medical developments that allow babies to be born earlier in pregnancy, even as early as 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Unfortunately, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act lacks the requisite number of votes (60) to pass the Senate. This means that the legislation cannot pass through Congress for consideration by President Trump. This also means that the US remains one of only seven nations that permits unborn children to be killed for any reason up to the moment of birth. We join China and North Korea on this shortlist.

Nevertheless, there remains hope for unborn children across the country, despite the lack of necessary support in the federal legislature. First, there are currently twenty states across the country with their own version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The first state to ever pass such legislation was, you guessed it, Nebraska. In 2010, we paved the way for this critical protection for the unborn child.

Second, there remains hope because the recent vote in the House and the projected support in the Senate reveal that there is majority support for pro-life legislation in both legislative houses, though the Senate lacks the additional votes it needs to end a filibuster and pass the bill.

Our federal delegation in both the House and the Senate have been supportive of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. In the House, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Don Bacon, and Adrian Smith all voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. In the Senate, both Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse have not only voiced support for, but also co-sponsored, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Our pro-life federal delegation is something Nebraskans can be proud of as we continue to offer an authentic pro-life witness to the country.

I would encourage you to thank each of our federal elected officials for their pro-life values. You can find their information online or by calling our office (402.477.7517). Or, better yet, join our Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN) to receive timely action alerts—subscribe at

Continue to offer prayers, sacrifices, and fasting for unborn children and their mothers. We must be a nation that protects its most vulnerable from the moment of conception and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is an important step on the way.