Senior Policy Advisor, The Catholic Association
Thank you, Sen. Graham for your leadership and for reminding us of the beauty of a developing baby at 20 weeks. Any of us who are mothers remember well the 20- week ultrasound where we watched, and felt, our baby swim around. We remember reading What to Expect When Expecting that tells us by 18 weeks the baby’s nervous system is in working order. Ample scientific evidence tells us babies at this stage are capable of feeling pain.
The website WebMd tells us that by 20 weeks the baby can “yawn, stretch and make facial expressions, even frown. Taste buds… can distinguish sweet from bitter tastes. The baby… can even get the hiccups. The retinas have become sensitive to light, so if a bright light is shined on your abdomen, baby will probably move to shield its eyes. Your baby can hear sounds by now -- your voice… as well as sounds outside your body. It will cover its ears with its hands if a loud sound is made near you.”
These babies can hear our voices, but they don’t yet have a voice of their own. They need us to speak up for them, and they need legal protection.
The trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell gave us a window into the ugly realities of late term abortion, and we all agreed that what we saw horrified us. Dr. Gosnell now sits in jail, but he was convicted of murder on only three counts. Most of his abortions were actually legal -- just under Pennsylvania’s 24 week limit.
Every year in this country at least 15,000 babies are subjected to legal abortion past 20 weeks. The vast majority of these are purely elective, as abortion doctors themselves have admitted. The last time Congress considered the issue of late-term abortion Ron Fitzimmons, then Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers confessed that he “lied through his teeth” when he claimed that the majority of late abortions involve health complications for the mother or baby. Some in the abortion lobby, however, continue to promote this myth despite evidence to the contrary.
In the very tragic and rare cases where a baby does have a fatal diagnosis, there is hospice care for these babies that help grieving parents say good-bye to their little one in a loving, humane way. What a stark contrast to the harsh and violent end of abortion by the standard techniques of dismemberment or injection of poison into the fetal heart. Surely a country that passed the Americans With Disabilities Act can choose compassion for our most vulnerable disabled members.
Also, in very rare cases a fatal diagnosis can turn out to be wrong. ABC News just featured the story of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler and her miracle baby Abigail. Baby Abigail was given a fatal diagnosis in-utero, but experimental treatments, also in-utero, saved her.
Americans, including women, overwhelmingly support limits on late term abortion. We call on the Senate leadership to allow a vote on this bill to protect the most basic human rights of these children.