House passes bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

The House of Representatives voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which fetuses can reportedly feel pain.  It won’t survive the Senate or a presidential veto threat, but it’s the biggest restriction on abortion that ever passed Congress since Roe v. Wade, which does allow for restrictions on abortion after viability, then construed as 24 weeks, but getting earlier with better neonatal technology.From the Washington Post:

The House approved legislation Tuesday that would ban abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the most sweeping abortion restriction to pass any chamber of Congress in a decade. The vote was 228 to 196.

While the measure is unlikely to become law — it faces opposition in the Senate and a White House veto threat — it could reverberate politically over the next year and a half, as both Republicans and Democrats appeal to voters in this year’s special elections and the 2014 midterms.

The vote was mostly along party lines, with just six Republicans voting with Democrats against it and six Democrats voting with Republicans in its favor.Authored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act aims to capitalize on the public outrage surrounding Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion provider who was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the case of three babies born alive in his clinic. The jury also convicted him of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar of Virginia, who died from a drug overdose while undergoing an abortion at his clinic.

While Republicans have pushed for a series of limits on abortion over the past 10 years — including successfully barring the D.C. government from using its own money to pay for abortions since 2011 — Tuesday’s vote marks the first time Congress has voted to redefine the point where a fetus becomes viable.

Under the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, abortions can be performed until the point when an individual doctor determines a fetus’s viability, which is generally defined as up to 24 weeks of gestation. After that point, the government can prohibit the procedure as long as it provides sufficient safeguards for the mother’s health and well-being.

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