NRLC Letter to U.S. House Members Regarding Upcoming Vote on Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (H.R. 6099)


The following letter was sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 27, 2006, regarding a vote expected to occur on the House floor during the week of December 4.  For further information, send e-mail to the NRLC Federal Legislation Department at [email protected], or visit the NRLC website at http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/fetalpain

Please forward this e-mail to any appropriate lists.
 
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November 27, 2006Dear Member of Congress:

We understand that during the week of December 4, the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 6099, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, on the Suspension Calendar. 

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) urges you to support this important legislation.  We expect to include this roll call in our scorecard of key votes for the 109th Congress.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act recognizes that under the legal policy imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court in cases such as Roe v. Wade and Stenberg v. Carhart, in the United States unborn children are subjected to trauma through abortion that causes them excruciating pain, which would be illegal if inflicted on animals in commerce or research.

This bill would require every abortionist to provide, whenever a woman seeks an abortion past 20 weeks after fertilization, information about the capacity of her unborn child to experience pain during the abortion.  After that, the woman would either request or refuse (by signing a form) the administration of pain-reducing drugs directly to the unborn child.  The woman’s decision regarding such drugs is entirely voluntary.  The bill would apply to all abortions past 20 weeks, regardless of the method used.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act also contains a number of proposed congressional findings regarding the scientific evidence that unborn children would experience great pain during abortions by 20 weeks.  The findings cite a number of existing federal laws that seek to diminish the suffering of animals, such as restrictions on how livestock are slaughtered and restrictions on the use of animals in medical research.

H.R. 6099 is a recently introduced revision of the original Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, H.R. 356.  Unlike the original, the new version does not require that the abortion provider read a script, but instead relies mostly upon a brochure to be prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, and a decision form for the woman seeking the abortion.  The new version also removes the previous mandatory revocation of medical licenses for violations, while retaining civil remedies (neither version contained any criminal penalties). 

(Regarding the original, more sweeping version, NARAL said in January 2005, “Pro-choice Americans have always believed that women deserve access to all the information relevant to their reproductive health decisions. For some women, that includes information related to fetal anesthesia options. NARAL Pro-Choice America does not intend to oppose this legislation.”)

In a Zogby poll conducted in April 2004, the public supported “laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion” by a 77-16 percent margin.

Congress took note of the pain inflicted by partial-birth abortion in the findings contained within the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (Public Law 108-105), as follows:

The vast majority of babies killed during partial-birth abortions are alive until the end of the procedure.  It is a medical fact, however, that unborn infants at this stage can feel pain when subjected to painful stimuli and that their perception of this pain is even more intense than that of newborn infants and older children when subjected to the same stimuli.  Thus, during a partial-birth abortion procedure, the child will fully experience the pain associated with piercing his or her skull and sucking out his or her brain.

In order to evaluate that congressional finding, expert testimony from both sides was heard in a 2004 trial held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as part of a legal challenge to the law brought by the National Abortion Federation and the ACLU.  In his ruling issued on August 26, U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey summarized this testimony as follows:

A D&X procedure [partial-birth abortion] may subject fetuses beyond twenty weeks’ gestational age to “prolonged and excruciating pain.”  Because the density of receptors is greater in the fetal skin at about twenty weeks of gestation, and because the mechanisms that inhibit and modulate the perception of pain do not develop until after thirty-two to thirty-four weeks’ gestation, there was testimony that a fetus likely feels severe pain while the procedure is being performed. . . When questioned about whether they spoke to their patients about fetal pain, Plaintiffs’ answers ranged from uncertainty about whether fetuses feel pain to a lack of caring on the matter. . . . Most of Plaintiffs’ experts acknowledged that they do not describe to their patients what the D&E and D&X [partial-birth abortion] procedures entail in clear and precise terms.

After evaluating the pertinent expert testimony from all sides, Judge Casey made certain formal “findings of fact,” among these:

The Court finds that the testimony at trial and before Congress establishes that D&X [partial-birth abortion] is a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized medical procedure.  Dr. [Kanwaljeet] Anand’s testimony, which went unrebutted by Plaintiffs, is credible evidence that D&X abortions subject fetuses to severe pain.  Notwithstanding this evidence, some of Plaintiffs’ experts testified that fetal pain does not concern them, and that some do not convey to their patients that their fetuses may undergo severe pain during a D&X.

(To read the report submitted to the court by Dr. Anand — an internationally recognized expert on the subject — click here.)Despite these and other damning findings regarding partial-birth abortion, Judge Casey ruled that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act could not be enforced because he said it conflicted with the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000).  The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act to go into effect.  In the meantime, however, Congress can and should act to prevent, to the extent possible, terrible suffering from being inflicted on unborn children by partial-birth abortion and by “D&E” procedures that dismember them by brute force while they are still alive.  H.R. 6099 would be a worthwhile step in that direction.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act has been endorsed by the Family Research Council, the Christian Medical Association, the Southern Baptist Convention (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), and Concerned Women for America, among others. 

A great deal of additional documentation regarding fetal pain is available on the NRLC website here: http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/fetalpain

Thank you for your consideration of our position on this vital legislation.


Sincerely,
 
Douglas Johnson
NRLC Legislative Director