Originally introduced in 2013 and consistently sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” was created as a 20-week abortion ban. It did not pass in previous years, but Graham decided to reintroduce the bill this year.
The main focus of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is to ban abortions that take place after 20 weeks. There are exceptions for women whose pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. When it was brought to congress in 2017, it stated that if a woman were to receive an abortion after 20 weeks, they would face criminal penalties such as a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
This is not the first time Graham has introduced pro-life legislation, as he has a record of supporting pro-life causes. Aside from continuously sponsoring the same Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, he has in the past supported defunding Planned Parenthood, been voted as 0% pro-choice by NARAL, defines himself as being pro-life, and has been recognized as being the South Carolina Citizens for Life 2006 Legislator of the Year. His website also touts that “one pro-life leader described his leadership on the Pain-Capable legislation, “He is the perfect man for the perfect issue.” He recently backed catholic leaders who were urging for Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo to be excommunicated after he signed into law a bill that expands the type of healthcare practitioners provide, including performing abortions and allowing for late-term abortions to be performed if the health of the mother is at risk or the fetus is not viable.
It is important to examine the facts on abortion in the United States, specifically those that tie into Graham’s abortion bill. According to Planned Parenthood, nearly 99% of abortions take place before 21 weeks, but if they are needed later than that, it is for a reason pertaining to the severe fetal abnormalities, or the mother’s health, usually when the mother and doctor need every medical option available. They also state that the abortion bans introduced, like Graham’s, are an attempt to ban abortions completely. Aside from the attempts on the 20 week ban, there have been numerous laws (most recently in Georgia) banning abortions after 6 weeks, which NARAL states is often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
To some, Graham’s proposal seems extreme. But it is not alone; states such as Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, and North Dakota “fetal heartbeat bills” which often ban abortions at 5 or 6 weeks of pregnancy or when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. These types of bills have faced harsh criticism from numerous women, reproductive rights groups, and civil rights groups because often times most women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. Studies have pointed out that the viability of a baby delivered before 24 weeks is low and doctors have stated that these types of bans make it seem like the fetus can live outside of the womb at six weeks, which it cannot.
If Graham’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act were to be introduced as law, it would change the reproductive care of women. His bill, as well as the other abortion bans in existence would limit comprehensive access to women’s reproductive care.