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Bob Goodlatte: Unborn children feel pain

goodlattefourinHuman life is a precious gift. As a father who has recently become a grandfather, I know that the gift of life is one that must be fiercely protected. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, medical knowledge regarding the development of unborn babies has advanced dramatically. Extensive medical research shows that unborn children begin to feel pain by 20 weeks after conception, and probably earlier.

Congress has the power, and the responsibility, to acknowledge these developments in our understanding of the ability of unborn children to feel pain. Earlier this month, I was proud to vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would ban abortions, with limited exceptions, in the United States after 20 weeks post conception – the point at which scientific evidence shows the unborn can experience great suffering.

Some have called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act extreme, yet the polls demonstrate astounding public support for the protections provided by this bill. A Quinnipiac poll found that a majority of Americans support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks or earlier. Among women, 68 percent support a ban on abortion at 20 weeks or earlier, including 66 percent of single women and 71 percent of married women. A Washington Post poll similarly found 66 percent of Americans support restrictions on abortion at 20 weeks or earlier.

As one of the few countries that allow elective, late-term abortions, America is not in good company. North Korea and China, which are not known as bastions of human rights, also still allow this practice. However, these polls show the American people want to change that.

Delivered or not, it has been shown that babies can feel pain at least 20 weeks after conception, more than halfway through a pregnancy. They can feel this pain, and they deserve to live. It is rare for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be so confident that a bill would save lives that it makes an estimate as to the number of lives that would be saved should it be enacted. But the CBO did just that, conservatively estimating that this bill would save 2,500 lives each year.

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I was pleased to help shepherd H.R. 36 through the House as we took a stand for the right to life and passed legislation that provides necessary protections for unborn children. This bill also includes provisions to protect the life of the mother, and additional exceptions for cases of rape and incest. As the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act heads to the Senate for consideration, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 36 – if not on behalf of unborn children, then on behalf of the American voters they represent who overwhelmingly support this bill.

Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth District in Congress.