Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
October 21, 2013

Headlines out of Washington DC these days are a confusing mess, and there is a lot of discontent regarding our elected officials. Shutdowns, slowdowns and slimdowns, budget and debt woes, and failure to explain government scandals have dominated the news. But there is one scandal that, in the long view of history, will prove more monumental than all the rest, and that the U.S. Senate now has the opportunity to handle.

A bill will soon be introduced in the Senate to do what the House of Representatives and ten states have already done, namely, to protect children in the womb from 20 weeks of development forward.  This bill is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and is based on the consensus of scientific evidence that the child at 20 weeks of development is capable of feeling pain. In the interest of protecting that child from pain, the bill provides that the child may not be aborted. Ten states have passed this law, and the U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 228-196, also voted to approve it in June. The measure enjoys the support of some 64% of the American public.

It does not, however, enjoy the support of the President. On June 17, the White House issued a statement that said that this bill, protecting children from painful dismemberment, “shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”

Federal law currently states, "It is therefore declared to be the policy of the United States that the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall be carried out only by humane methods." Those words come from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, a law that expresses our concern for the pain experienced by animals, but that more fundamentally expresses a dimension of our own humanity.

Yet the President can’t bring himself to extend the same concern to human children. There’s the greatest scandal of all. And the moment has now arrived to find out how each of our United States Senators will handle this issue. Will they be as callous as the President toward the pain that children in the womb experience? Or will they dodge the question altogether by avoiding a vote on the bill? Or will they do the right thing and pass this commonsense, decent legislation?

In 1994, an article in the British medical journal, The Lancet, revealed hormonal stress reactions in the unborn child, and concluded with the recommendation that painkillers be used when surgery is done on these children. The authors wrote, "This applies not just to diagnostic and therapeutic procedures on the fetus, but possibly also to termination of pregnancy, especially by surgical techniques involving dismemberment." Earlier, in 1991, scientific advisors to the Federal Medical Council in Germany made a similar recommendation. This issue has not escaped the notice of the medical and scientific community.

Now it remains to be seen if it will escape the notice of the U.S. Senate.

This is a reasonable development in our national debate on abortion. When courts were considering the constitutionality of the ban on partial-birth abortion in the last decade, abortionist Dr. Timothy Johnson testified that the question of whether a child being dismembered by abortion felt any pain did not even cross his mind. As a nation, whatever our views on abortion, our sense of humanity has got to be better than that. Now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to give us their answer to that question.

Watch for an action alert which Priests for Life will issue shortly regarding what you can do to press for the passage of this bill in the United States Senate!

Priests for Life
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