The legislation has a most striking name – the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It is a bill that would make it illegal to have an abortion after 20 weeks post fertilization and it has cleared the Idaho House. The exception would be if the mother has a condition which complicates the pregnancy to the point that it may cause her death or irreversible physical impairment.

The bill, S 1165, now heads to the governor for his consideration.

The bill passed 54-14 along party lines. Earlier in the session it passed the House State Affairs Committee with a 14-4 vote, with Republicans in favor, Democrats opposed. The four Democrats on the committee are women.

During debate those favoring the bill cited doctors who during the committee hearings said there was strong evidence suggesting a fetus could feel pain at 20 weeks, and probably earlier than that.

Opposition to the bill focused on its uncertain language in case of rape and in those cases where the mother knows she is carrying a non-viable baby.

Dr. Shawn Kenny, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, testified in favor of the bill and said he’s seen firsthand that a fetus at 20 weeks feels pain. “Fetal pain is well established. Babies withdraw and react when they are touched.” He also said that while babies at that age are extremely vulnerable, they can survive. “Babies survive at 20 weeks and are given medication to help with the pain. That’s what this bill is about, pain.”

Dr. Earl Crandall, a gynecologist who also favors the bill, says babies are viable at 20 weeks after fertilization. Crandall says the argument that 20 weeks after fertilization is not viable is due to outdated practice. Roe v. Wade, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that struck down restrictions on abortion, set the viability mark, but that was too long ago, Crandall believes. “Technology has come such a long way since then. Yes, at that time the viability at 20 weeks past fertilization was extremely low. Things have changed.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, said with the advance in technology and the evidence surrounding this issue, it’s the right thing to do. “The peer review evidence in committee was compelling and substantial that the fetus is viable at 20 weeks. The state has a compelling interest in protecting the interest of the unborn child.”

Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverwood, agreed that children can feel pain, but also added that we’re always trying to help those who cannot help themselves so how is this different. “We need to advocate for those (children) who cannot speak for themselves,” adding,” these children are not throwaway items, they are not products.”

Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, does not like some of the language in the bill. “My understanding as I read it, is that if a young female was raped they would have to carry the baby to term.” She also said, “This bill allows a rapist, pedophile, or person of incest to sue over decisions made by the doctor.”

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said it is undeniable that the fetuses do feel pain, but his concern with the bill lies somewhere else. “My concern is with the families who have the burden with a non-viable baby. To make someone carry a baby to term when you know it’s not viable is cruel.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, carried the bill along with Rep. Luker. Crane wondered out loud, “How many people have been aborted? A future president? An Olympic gold medalist? Perhaps even a member of this body.” Crane then gave three examples of famous people whose mothers were told by doctors to get an abortion: Ethel Waters was a blues, jazz, and gospel singer. She was also an actress. Tim Tebow is considered one of the greatest college football players of all time. He won two national championships while at the University of Florida and now is playing in the NFL. Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. His music has transcended time, said Crane.


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