Banning abortion after 20 weeks

Fifteen states are considering banning abortions after five months of pregnancy.  Nebraska and Kansas have passed it, and Iowa may be next:

The Iowa Senate will consider a bill that bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, following approval of the measure by the state House Thursday night, lawmakers said Friday.

State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, a Republican, said the bill is a priority because a Nebraska doctor has said he plans to open a clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa where he would perform so-called “late term” abortions.

“There is a substantial and growing body of medical and scientific evidence that unborn babies at 20 weeks can feel intense pain when they are aborted,” Hanusa said during debate Thursday. “At 20 weeks, unborn children have pain receptors throughout their body and nerves link these to the brain.”

Iowa is one of 15 states considering a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, citing fetal pain research. The bills are modeled after a Nebraska law passed last year. A Kansas 20-week ban has already passed the state’s legislature, and Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign it.

via Iowa House bans abortion after 20th week of pregnancy | Reuters.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rev. Gary Hall

    There still not human, just pain-o-meters. Let’s face it, this world is a culture of death. Infanticide has been here since time immemorial and it will be here until the new age is ushered in. If such a law passed in all 50 states I guess the politicians could all sleep at night knowing no fetuses were aborted in pain. Having said that God uses odd masks to bound evil, and this would be a welcome boundary. (As an aside, yea to Arizona for taking a moral stand on gender selective abortion).

  • Rev. Gary Hall

    There still not human, just pain-o-meters. Let’s face it, this world is a culture of death. Infanticide has been here since time immemorial and it will be here until the new age is ushered in. If such a law passed in all 50 states I guess the politicians could all sleep at night knowing no fetuses were aborted in pain. Having said that God uses odd masks to bound evil, and this would be a welcome boundary. (As an aside, yea to Arizona for taking a moral stand on gender selective abortion).

  • Jonathan

    Forced death doesn’t sound like a pleasant process at any stage of life, whether twenty weeks or twenty hours. Why twenty weeks?

    I think that the courts would be more persuaded to uphold this based on “fetal viability” at 20 weeks, rather than “fetal pain.” If fetal pain is this issue, no problem–just require abortionists to anesthetize the fetus before dismembering it.

    It’s been a while since I read Roe and Doe, but I thought some of the majority opinions keyed on when a state had a compelling interest attached when the child reached “viability;” could survive outside the womb.

    If that’s the case, why not require artificial wombs or fetal transplants at government expense?

  • Jonathan

    Forced death doesn’t sound like a pleasant process at any stage of life, whether twenty weeks or twenty hours. Why twenty weeks?

    I think that the courts would be more persuaded to uphold this based on “fetal viability” at 20 weeks, rather than “fetal pain.” If fetal pain is this issue, no problem–just require abortionists to anesthetize the fetus before dismembering it.

    It’s been a while since I read Roe and Doe, but I thought some of the majority opinions keyed on when a state had a compelling interest attached when the child reached “viability;” could survive outside the womb.

    If that’s the case, why not require artificial wombs or fetal transplants at government expense?

  • Paul

    My eyes played a trick on me this morning when scanning the post titles from my RSS reader. “Banning abortion after 20 weeks” was followed by “Protocol for disposing of old Babies” – or so my mind thought. How sad and ironic that people have great concern for paper and ink and glue which are made to be cheap and disposable and yet have such little regard for living flesh and soul.

  • Paul

    My eyes played a trick on me this morning when scanning the post titles from my RSS reader. “Banning abortion after 20 weeks” was followed by “Protocol for disposing of old Babies” – or so my mind thought. How sad and ironic that people have great concern for paper and ink and glue which are made to be cheap and disposable and yet have such little regard for living flesh and soul.

  • helen

    Paul @ 3
    Don’t you think if more people had respect for the Word, they would also have more respect for human life, before birth or later?

  • helen

    Paul @ 3
    Don’t you think if more people had respect for the Word, they would also have more respect for human life, before birth or later?

  • DonS

    Twenty weeks seems arbitrary, as is noted in above comments. However, the rationale of Roe and its progeny, and the fact that the Court is not presently constituted to overturn Roe, despite its clearly faulty logic and failure to lay down a coherent standard of law, necessitates these kinds of actions to chip away at it. Twenty weeks is probably about right for current technology to support viability outside of the womb, and the fact that research has demonstrated pain sensitivity at this fetal age also helps to sway the argument in the direction of this restriction. Hopefully, some lives will be saved.

  • DonS

    Twenty weeks seems arbitrary, as is noted in above comments. However, the rationale of Roe and its progeny, and the fact that the Court is not presently constituted to overturn Roe, despite its clearly faulty logic and failure to lay down a coherent standard of law, necessitates these kinds of actions to chip away at it. Twenty weeks is probably about right for current technology to support viability outside of the womb, and the fact that research has demonstrated pain sensitivity at this fetal age also helps to sway the argument in the direction of this restriction. Hopefully, some lives will be saved.

  • DonS

    I should add that, perhaps more importantly, these kinds of statutes keep the abortionists on the defensive, continually having to voice support for their grisly practices. Having the explain the indefensible has helped to turn the tide of public opinion against the atrocity that is abortion on demand, as well as the lunacy of the claim that the Constitution recognizes a fundamental right to kill.

  • DonS

    I should add that, perhaps more importantly, these kinds of statutes keep the abortionists on the defensive, continually having to voice support for their grisly practices. Having the explain the indefensible has helped to turn the tide of public opinion against the atrocity that is abortion on demand, as well as the lunacy of the claim that the Constitution recognizes a fundamental right to kill.

  • JonSLC

    Is incrementalism a legitimate tactic for Christians? In other words, if a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade is highly unlikely in the near future, should Christians concentrate on restricting the number of abortions in the meantime? Could banning abortions after 20 weeks be a step in the right direction?

    I agree that these laws certainly don’t go far enough. They do not address the foundational problem, namely the sin of ending lives that God has created. Yet, considering that we’re talking about the secular government, aren’t these laws positive developments?

  • JonSLC

    Is incrementalism a legitimate tactic for Christians? In other words, if a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade is highly unlikely in the near future, should Christians concentrate on restricting the number of abortions in the meantime? Could banning abortions after 20 weeks be a step in the right direction?

    I agree that these laws certainly don’t go far enough. They do not address the foundational problem, namely the sin of ending lives that God has created. Yet, considering that we’re talking about the secular government, aren’t these laws positive developments?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m all for actions like these that have the potential to seriously restrict the number of abortions.

    I am curious what percentage of abortions this would actually affect, but don’t really feel like doing the research on that right now. I suspect it’s disappointingly small, or else it wouldn’t gain traction — the article quotes a bill opponent saying abortions are “rare” after 20 weeks.

    I do think it’s fascinating that as medical technology improves and ages for viability outside the womb get younger and younger, the pro-choice side has to, at some level, concede the existence of humans where they magically weren’t before. That is to say, twenty years ago, there was no human inside the womb at 25 weeks. And now that medical technology has improved, hey presto, there’s a human there now. One wonders if technology will continue to improve to the point where we have humans in there at 10 weeks? Or even (gasp!) at conception!

    I also wonder about these pain studies. Do pro-choicers acknowledge them? What, exactly, do they think is experiencing pain? It’s obviously not the mother. So …

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m all for actions like these that have the potential to seriously restrict the number of abortions.

    I am curious what percentage of abortions this would actually affect, but don’t really feel like doing the research on that right now. I suspect it’s disappointingly small, or else it wouldn’t gain traction — the article quotes a bill opponent saying abortions are “rare” after 20 weeks.

    I do think it’s fascinating that as medical technology improves and ages for viability outside the womb get younger and younger, the pro-choice side has to, at some level, concede the existence of humans where they magically weren’t before. That is to say, twenty years ago, there was no human inside the womb at 25 weeks. And now that medical technology has improved, hey presto, there’s a human there now. One wonders if technology will continue to improve to the point where we have humans in there at 10 weeks? Or even (gasp!) at conception!

    I also wonder about these pain studies. Do pro-choicers acknowledge them? What, exactly, do they think is experiencing pain? It’s obviously not the mother. So …

  • Susan

    Didn’t that film, ‘The Silent Scream’, come out more than twenty years ago?

    Not an easy film to watch, precisely because the little one who was being torn to pieces (before he reached twenty weeks’ gestation, by the way) was shown trying to escape the suction tube and opened his mouth in a ‘silent scream’ just before the screen went red with his blood then blacked out.

    I’ve often wondered why men in black robes who sit on benches should be qualified to practice medicine? Gestation is part of a continuum that is individual to the child’s rate of development, not a matter of ‘stages’, ‘trimesters’ or ‘consciousness’.

  • Susan

    Didn’t that film, ‘The Silent Scream’, come out more than twenty years ago?

    Not an easy film to watch, precisely because the little one who was being torn to pieces (before he reached twenty weeks’ gestation, by the way) was shown trying to escape the suction tube and opened his mouth in a ‘silent scream’ just before the screen went red with his blood then blacked out.

    I’ve often wondered why men in black robes who sit on benches should be qualified to practice medicine? Gestation is part of a continuum that is individual to the child’s rate of development, not a matter of ‘stages’, ‘trimesters’ or ‘consciousness’.

  • A.D.P.

    According to the CDC, only 1.3% of abortions occur at or after 21 weeks gestation. 88% occur before 13 weeks (which is to say, in the first trimester). Those stats are from 2005, but I don’t believe there is any reason to think they have changed since then.

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5713a1.htm

  • A.D.P.

    According to the CDC, only 1.3% of abortions occur at or after 21 weeks gestation. 88% occur before 13 weeks (which is to say, in the first trimester). Those stats are from 2005, but I don’t believe there is any reason to think they have changed since then.

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5713a1.htm

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    20 weeks is a very early viable date, so it makes some sense, and the pain argument makes sense as well. We’ve not yet won the argument over whether people ought to be killed for convenience, obviously, but this is a good step.

    Good question by Don on whether incrementalism makes sense; I would argue that it does. We banned slavery in most northern states first, banned it in territories next, and then we tragically forgot how Wilberforce ended it peacefully, of course–but with the good effect of ending legal slavery for good. So incrementalism has its place.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    20 weeks is a very early viable date, so it makes some sense, and the pain argument makes sense as well. We’ve not yet won the argument over whether people ought to be killed for convenience, obviously, but this is a good step.

    Good question by Don on whether incrementalism makes sense; I would argue that it does. We banned slavery in most northern states first, banned it in territories next, and then we tragically forgot how Wilberforce ended it peacefully, of course–but with the good effect of ending legal slavery for good. So incrementalism has its place.

  • steve

    A.D.P #10,

    1.3% is a small percentage, indeed. However, considering that in 2005 there were 820,151 abortions, that 1.3% would have equaled 10,662 lives.

    Just an additional thought, the number of abortions in the United States is nearly 30 times the total number of deaths, of all causes, of infants under 1 year old. Fortunately, fetuses aren’t humans, otherwise we’d have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

  • steve

    A.D.P #10,

    1.3% is a small percentage, indeed. However, considering that in 2005 there were 820,151 abortions, that 1.3% would have equaled 10,662 lives.

    Just an additional thought, the number of abortions in the United States is nearly 30 times the total number of deaths, of all causes, of infants under 1 year old. Fortunately, fetuses aren’t humans, otherwise we’d have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

  • Roi

    At least it isn’t 26 weeks. Victoria, Australia, now has some of the worst abortion laws on the planet. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Australia
    And under medicare.
    I believe it was harder for me to have my sons circumcised.

  • Roi

    At least it isn’t 26 weeks. Victoria, Australia, now has some of the worst abortion laws on the planet. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Australia
    And under medicare.
    I believe it was harder for me to have my sons circumcised.

  • Stephen

    There is a completely humanist argument against abortion from conception that I think is airtight which I wish I would hear more often put forward. While it is perhaps true that more Christians have taken this on as “our issue” I don’t think we will ever win it on those grounds alone. It seems we need to find some kind of moral consensus in order to sway the consciences of more people to decrease the numbers of abortions, and I don’t think this argument about pain to the fetus goes far enough.

    That argument I have heard follows on what Todd says. Medical science is already at the zero point. The argument goes something like this:

    All the genetic material is there at conception for a full human being to come into being. All that is lacking is environment and nourishment to survive. By analogy, if we took those things away from any human being outside the womb, anyone who did so would be branded a criminal. Anyone who did not aid or attempt to prevent them being taken away would also be branded an accomplice.

    Imagine a healthy human being thrown out into the cold without a shelter or coat and no provisions. Whoever did such a thing would be a monster (hmm, suddenly I’m thinking of homeless people). Whoever could render aid and did not do so would be liable for some kind of scrutiny. It is no different in kind for a developing fetus at any stage. All the basic genetic details are there to create a person. It is only a matter of time and sustenance.

    I think what is missing is a more fully agreed upon anthropological view of what it means to be human. There are things that are agreed upon with regards to scientific realities. Beginning there and building upon that seems realistic instead of trying to demand that others adopt a spiritual outlook they simply do not or will not ever have.

    I think this argument about pain is heading in the right direction. No sensible human wants to do that to another, but I think it could go further. We say it is murder but we do not show how it is so other than to insist that fetuses are humans “because God says so” or so the argument seems to go. That just does not wash for many. Please correct me if I am wrongly characterizing it or reducing it down unfairly. What I think we need is a more humanistic sensibility, which this pain argument in fact is, that will grab others where they live. I think the argument I have expressed does that pretty well.

    If, as our Lutheran understanding confesses, “nothing can be added to Aristotle” and even pagans can know what is right, then this issue too can be understood in terms of law on earth. No Christ is necessary for such moral knowledge. This is not a matter of becoming Christian to figure out that abortion is wrong. There are, in fact, atheist and other pagans who oppose it on just these types of grounds. It is inhuman.

  • Stephen

    There is a completely humanist argument against abortion from conception that I think is airtight which I wish I would hear more often put forward. While it is perhaps true that more Christians have taken this on as “our issue” I don’t think we will ever win it on those grounds alone. It seems we need to find some kind of moral consensus in order to sway the consciences of more people to decrease the numbers of abortions, and I don’t think this argument about pain to the fetus goes far enough.

    That argument I have heard follows on what Todd says. Medical science is already at the zero point. The argument goes something like this:

    All the genetic material is there at conception for a full human being to come into being. All that is lacking is environment and nourishment to survive. By analogy, if we took those things away from any human being outside the womb, anyone who did so would be branded a criminal. Anyone who did not aid or attempt to prevent them being taken away would also be branded an accomplice.

    Imagine a healthy human being thrown out into the cold without a shelter or coat and no provisions. Whoever did such a thing would be a monster (hmm, suddenly I’m thinking of homeless people). Whoever could render aid and did not do so would be liable for some kind of scrutiny. It is no different in kind for a developing fetus at any stage. All the basic genetic details are there to create a person. It is only a matter of time and sustenance.

    I think what is missing is a more fully agreed upon anthropological view of what it means to be human. There are things that are agreed upon with regards to scientific realities. Beginning there and building upon that seems realistic instead of trying to demand that others adopt a spiritual outlook they simply do not or will not ever have.

    I think this argument about pain is heading in the right direction. No sensible human wants to do that to another, but I think it could go further. We say it is murder but we do not show how it is so other than to insist that fetuses are humans “because God says so” or so the argument seems to go. That just does not wash for many. Please correct me if I am wrongly characterizing it or reducing it down unfairly. What I think we need is a more humanistic sensibility, which this pain argument in fact is, that will grab others where they live. I think the argument I have expressed does that pretty well.

    If, as our Lutheran understanding confesses, “nothing can be added to Aristotle” and even pagans can know what is right, then this issue too can be understood in terms of law on earth. No Christ is necessary for such moral knowledge. This is not a matter of becoming Christian to figure out that abortion is wrong. There are, in fact, atheist and other pagans who oppose it on just these types of grounds. It is inhuman.

  • steve

    Well said, Stephen. The “viability” of a human being at any stage of life depends foremost on proper food and shelter.

    Maybe it’s just me, but this logic brings fresh perspective to John Donne’s words: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Perhaps part of the problem is that so many an American believes he or she can be an island. That our identity and worth as individuals relies on what we can do by ourselves. We mistakenly assume we can do anything completely by ourselves.

  • steve

    Well said, Stephen. The “viability” of a human being at any stage of life depends foremost on proper food and shelter.

    Maybe it’s just me, but this logic brings fresh perspective to John Donne’s words: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    Perhaps part of the problem is that so many an American believes he or she can be an island. That our identity and worth as individuals relies on what we can do by ourselves. We mistakenly assume we can do anything completely by ourselves.

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