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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R.36, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Oct 3, 2017
Blog Post

Today, the House voted on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill which would prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed by a vote of 237 to 189, and I’d like to offer a few thoughts on why I voted as I did in supporting the measure.

There are strong opinions on both sides of the debate, and given the gravity of the issue, it can be very difficult for some people to discuss. In all these considerations, I would simply say that the position I have come to hold has been based on much thought and reflection...along with many conversations with people at home. The issue is also profoundly moving for all of us who have children and as one watches the unfolding of the miracle that is life.

When the Founding Fathers enshrined the guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they regarded life as a core right that government would protect. Thomas Jefferson emphasized this point when he said, “the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”

The bill would prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization because unborn babies can feel pain at that stage. The bill also provides an exception for cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. It also requires medical care for infants born alive after attempted abortion procedures.

It seems logical that as science advances and we learn new things about human physiology, our laws should reflect these advances.

Indeed, in its various decisions, the Supreme Court has determined when states may regulate abortion. Under Roe v. Wade that determination was the third trimester (about 28 weeks). Then, in a later decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court set the limit based on the idea of when the fetus can survive outside the womb, also known as viability. The Roe decision came in 1973 and the Casey decision came in the early 1990s. Now, given more recent research showing that the unborn can feel pain at least as early as 20 weeks...indeed, pediatric anesthesia is routinely given during fetal surgeries in recognition of that, I think it reasonable to revisit the laws currently on the books. I would also note that our society has an interest in not inflicting unnecessary pain if it can avoid doing so.

It will now go to the Senate, where getting 60 votes will be difficult. But if the bill does indeed pass the Senate, it will then go to the president, who has said he would sign it into law.