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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - January 22, 2007)

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By Mr. BROWNBACK (for himself, Mr. ALEXANDER, Mr. BUNNING, Mr. BURR, Mr. CHAMBLISS, Mr. COBURN, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. COLEMAN, Mr. CORNYN, Mr. DEMINT, Mrs. DOLE, Mr. ENSIGN, Mr. ENZI, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mr. HAGEL, Mr. HATCH, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. ISAKSON, Mr. KYL, Mr. LOTT, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. MCCONNELL, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. THUNE, Mr. VITTER, and Mr. VOINOVICH):

S. 356. A bill to ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act. I am joined by 27 original cosponsors.

After carefully reviewing the medical and ethical arguments that underpin this Act, I am convinced that my colleagues will agree that this legislation is pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-information.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is about empowering women with information and treating them as adults who are able to participate fully in the medical decision-making process. It is also about respecting and treating the unborn child more humanely. This legislation is, at heart, an informed consent bill which would do two simple things: first, this act would require abortion providers to present women seeking an abortion twenty or more weeks after fertilization with scientific information about what is known regarding the pain capacity of the unborn child inside of her womb.

Second, should the woman desire to continue with the abortion after being presented with this information, the legislation calls for her to be given the opportunity to choose anesthesia for the unborn child in order to lessen its pain.

No abortion procedures would be prohibited by the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act. This is strictly an informed consent bill.

I don't believe that anyone in this chamber thinks that any patient should ever be denied her right to all the information that is available on a surgery she or her child is about to undergo simply because the patient is pregnant. Providing a woman with medical and scientific information on the development of her unborn child and the pain the child will experience during an abortion will equip her to make an informed decision about how or if to proceed. Pregnant women must be treated as intelligent, mature human beings who are capable of understanding this information and making difficult choices.

Due to amazing advances in medical technology, we have known for some time now that unborn children can and do respond to pain and to human touch in general. This is evidenced by anatomical, functional, physiological and behavioral indicators that are correlated with pain in children and adults.

In light of this knowledge, when a child undergoes prenatal surgery in order to alleviate certain types of congenital hernias which can affect the child's liver and lungs or to correct prenatal heart failure, both the child and the mother are offered anesthesia as a matter of course. Certainly everyone would agree that, at the very least, abortion is a surgical procedure performed on the fetus. Why should the medical community be required to offer anesthesia to one 20-week-old unborn baby undergoing any other type of prenatal surgery, but not require it for another 20-week-old unborn baby who is undergoing the life-terminating surgery of an abortion? Are both babies not at the same stage of development with the same capacity for pain?

Of course, this new scientific knowledge that unborn babies can experience pain is not news to most women. Any mother can tell you her unborn child can feel and respond to stimuli from outside the womb. Sometimes a voice or a sharp movement by the mother will cause the unborn child to stir. And usually, at some point in the late second trimester, even the father can feel and see the unborn child's movements. And if you push the unborn child's limb, the limb may push back. I have many fond memories of feeling my own children kick and move around inside my wife's womb. It was obvious to both of us that our children were very much alive.

In the proposed legislation, we have settled on a 20-week benchmark because there is strong medical and scientific knowledge that unborn children feel and experience pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.

Many scientists and anesthesiologists believe that unborn children actually feel pain weeks earlier, but we chose the 20 week benchmark as a point on which the most scientists and doctors can agree.

We do know that unborn children at 20 weeks' gestation can not only feel, but that their ability to experience pain is heightened. The highest density of pain receptors per square inch of skin in human development occurs in utero from 20 to 30 weeks gestation.

The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act offers us a rare chance to transcend the traditional political boundaries on the abortion issue. It is a matter of human decency, access to information for women, and patients' rights.

It is my hope that this bill will offer us a chance to work across political divides to forge new understandings in this chamber.

I think that we can all support giving women more information when they are making life-altering decisions.

In fact, according to a Wirthlin Worldwide poll conducted after the 2004 election, 75 percent of respondents favored ``laws requiring that women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancies be given information about fetal pain before having an abortion.'

During the 2006 elections, candidates from both sides of the aisle promised to support bipartisan solutions dealing with abortion, such as promoting adoption and passing parental notification requirements for minors seeking abortions.

Adoption and parental notification for minors are indeed issues on which I hope we can work together. Perhaps we can begin with this measure. The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act would provide a wonderful opportunity for us to affirm that the 110th Congress is pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-patient access to information.

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