Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
|Colloquial name(s)||Micah's Law|
|Introduced in||115th United States Congress|
|Introduced on||January 3, 2017|
|Number of co-sponsors||182|
|Effects and codifications|
|Title(s) affected||Title 18 of the United States Code|
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (also colloquially known as Micah's Law) is a congressional bill that would, in most cases, make it unlawful to perform an abortion if the estimated post-fertilization age of a fetus is 20 weeks or more. The bill is based upon the assertion is that a fetus is capable of feeling pain during an abortion at and after that point in a pregnancy.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was first introduced in Congress in 2013. It successfully passed the House of Representatives in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The bill has twice received a majority of votes in the Senate, but has failed to reach the 60 votes required to break a filibuster.
In the legislative findings section, the bill states that pain receptors (nociceptors) "are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body", that "nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcortical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization", and that anesthesia is routinely administered to fetuses undergoing fetal surgery (thus supporting the conclusion that fetuses feel pain).
The bill prohibits all abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization unless the abortion is judged necessary to save the life of the mother; is the result of a rape of an adult woman who has received counseling or medical treatment for the rape; or is the result of an act of rape or incest against a minor that has been reported to a law enforcement agency or other government authority.
The bill imposes a criminal penalty against any person performing an abortion after 20 weeks. That penalty consists of a fine, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. It bars any prosecution of a woman receiving an abortion after 20 weeks, and allows any woman on whom an abortion is performed after 20 weeks in violation of the law to seek civil action against the person who performed the abortion.
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The bill was first introduced by Trent Franks of Arizona in the 113th Congress on April 26, 2013 under bill number H.R. 1797. The bill passed the House by a vote of 228-196. It was introduced in the Senate in November 2013 by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as S. 1670.
Franks re-introduced the bill in the 114th Congress on January 6, 2015 under bill number H.R. 36. The House passed the bill by a vote of 242-184 on May 13, 2015. Graham re-introduced the bill in the Senate in June 2015. On September 22, 2015, the bill was filibustered in the Senate. Fifty-four senators voted for cloture (in other words, to send the bill to the Senate floor) and 42 voted against cloture; accordingly, the bill failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to break the filibuster.
Franks re-introduced the bill in the 115th Congress on January 3, 2017 under bill number H.R. 3. On October 2, 2017, the White House issued a statement of policy announcing that Donald Trump's advisors would recommend he sign the bill if it reached his desk. The House passed the bill on October 3, 2017 by a vote of 237-189. Graham introduced the bill in the Senate on October 5, 2017 under bill number S. 1922. After being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill was considered by the Senate on January 29, 2018. The bill failed to receive the 60 votes needed for cloture; the vote was 51-46. Forty-eight Republicans and three Democrats voted for the bill, while 44 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it.
The bill has been become known as Micah's Law because of Micah Pickering, a boy from Iowa who was born prematurely at 22 weeks' gestation in 2012 and survived; Pickering appeared in a 2016 Susan B. Anthony List election advertisement criticizing Hillary Clinton's support for legal abortion after 20 weeks' gestation. Pickering and his family have appeared at press conferences supporting the bill.
Numerous polls have shown that a ban on abortions after 20 weeks is supported by a majority or plurality of Americans. According to a 2013 Washington Post article about public opinion polls on the issue, women support banning abortion after 20 weeks in higher numbers than men. The following table contains data from public opinion polls that asked Americans about their thoughts on banning abortions after 20 weeks.
|Poll source||Date||Question wording||Support/Favor
|McLaughlin & Associates/Susan B. Anthony List||January 2017||"The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, or five months of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and incest. Do you support or oppose the legislation outlawing most abortions after 20 weeks, or five months of pregnancy?"||62%||25%||12%|
|Knights of Columbus/Marist||January 2017||"Please tell me if you strongly support, support, oppose, or strongly oppose banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save the life of the mother?"||59%||35%||5%|
|Quinnipiac||November 2014||"As you may know, in 2013 the House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support or oppose such legislation?"||60%||33%||7%|
|Washington Post/ABC News||July 2013||"As you may know, in 2013 the House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. Would you support or oppose such legislation?"||60%||33%||7%|
|NBC News/Wall Street Journal||July 2013||Unavailable||44%||37%||–|
|Rasmussen Reports||July 2013||Unavailable||44%||41%||15%|
|National Journal||June 2013||"As you may know, the House of Representatives recently approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. (Supporters say the legislation is necessary because they believe a fetus can feel pain at that point of the pregnancy.) (Opponents say it undermines the right to abortion that the U.S. Supreme Court established in 1973.) Would you support or oppose such legislation?"||48%||44%||–|
|Huffington Post/YouGov||June 2013||"Would you favor or oppose a federal law that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape or incest?"||59%||30%||12%|
An additional poll not included in the table above was conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News in July 2013 asking, "The U.S. Supreme Court has said abortion is legal without restriction in about the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Some states have passed laws reducing this to 20 weeks. If it has to be one or the other, would you rather have abortions legal without restriction up to (20) weeks, or up to (24) weeks?" That poll found that 56% of adults responded by saying abortion should be legal without restriction up to 20 weeks, while 27% said it should be legal without restriction up to 24 weeks.
Planned Parenthood commissioned an August 2013 poll that asked respondents whether abortion should be legal or illegal in the following scenarios: carrying the pregnancy to term would cause serious long-term health problems to the mother; the fetus is not viable and personal/health circumstances are such that she shouldn’t continue pregnancy; the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest; and the fetus has severe abnormalities that would cause fetal death or extreme disability. In each scenario, between 58% and 66% respondents said abortion after 20 weeks should be legal. In 2015, Planned Parenthood cited this poll in a press release claiming, "A solid 60 percent of voters oppose 20-week bans when they understand the real-world impact these laws would have." The Washington Post Fact Checker rated Planned Parenthood's claim as false, saying the poll did not actually test support for the bill as it was written, but for a set of specific circumstances.
Politicians, political parties, and interest groups
The 2016 Republican Party national platform specifically endorsed the federal version of the act, saying, "Not only is it good legislation, but it enjoys the support of a majority of the American people." Most of the candidates running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 pledged support for the 20 week abortion ban. After receiving the Republican nomination, in September 2017 Donald Trump signed a letter to pro-life leaders committing to sign the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act if elected.
After the House passed the bill in 2015, Hillary Clinton criticized the bill as "a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, which has protected a woman's constitutional right to privacy for over forty years."
The bill is supported by pro-life groups including the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, Family Research Council, National Right to Life Committee, and Concerned Women for America. The bill is opposed by pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Similar state laws
According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of October 2017, 17 states have passed bans on abortion "at about 20 weeks post-fertilization or its equivalent of 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain at that point in gestation." These states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Arizona and Idaho have passed similar bans, but they were blocked by courts. (North Carolina has had a ban on abortions after 20 weeks in place since 1973, shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, that was not enacted on the basis of fetal pain.)
In 2012, Trent Franks introduced the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would use Congress's legislative authority over the District of Columbia under Article I of the United States Constitution to prohibit abortions in D.C. after twenty weeks. The bill received majority support in the House by a vote of 220-154, but failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
- House passes bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks
- Text of HR 36
- H.R.1797 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
- HR 1797 roll call vote
- S.1670 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
- FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 223
- Roll Call Vote 114th Congress - 1st Session
- Is the United States one of seven countries that ‘allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy?’ (Washington Post)
- FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 549
- S.1922 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
- "Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to ... -- Senate Vote #25 -- Jan 29, 2018". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
- Abortion ban bill fails to advance in the Senate (Washington Post)
- Pass abortion bill — science and basic human decency say these babies are worth saving (The Hill)
- House to vote on 20-week abortion ban
- Clinton targeted in new abortion ad
- Senate blocks pain-capable abortion bill
- The most surprising part about the GOP’s failed 20-week abortion ban push: It was popular
- Guess who likes the GOP’s 20-week abortion ban? Women.
- JULY 2013 WASHINGTON POST-ABC NEWS POLL - NATIONAL POLITICS, TRAYVON MARTIN, HEALTH CARE
- A DEEPER LOOK AT VOTERS’ OPINIONS ON 20-WEEK ABORTION BANS
- Planned Parenthood’s claim that ’60 percent’ of voters oppose 20-week abortion ban
- 2016 Republican Platform
- Pro-lifers' new litmus test for GOP
- Trump letter
- Hillary slams 20-week abortion ban
- Graham, Senators Introduce 20-Week Abortion Ban in the Senate
- Pro-Choice Groups Raise Alarm Ahead of House Vote to Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks
- State Policies on Later Abortions
- Supreme Court Won’t Hear Arizona Appeal on Abortion Ban
- H.R.3803 - District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act