The legislation has been hailed by pro-life advocates across the country for its innovative approach and focusing the public's attention on unborn babies who have been medically documented as pain capable at 20 weeks gestation.I fully expected a lawsuit, since this gives unborn babies an additional month of protection; the Supreme Court has held that abortion may not be banned until viability, which is usually set at 24 weeks. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 1.5% of abortions take place at 21 weeks or later, which is roughly 18,150 per year in the United States. (Of course, only a fraction of those are in Nebraska.)
“This will take off like wildfire,” Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, predicted in comments to the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.
The Nebraska bill has already inspired Sen. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, to press for a similar measure on the national level -- and he used it to challenge pro-abortion president Barack Obama.
“How does anybody -- pro-life or pro-choice -- oppose this?” asked Johanns. “If the baby feels pain ... then it is an issue of human compassion.”
The expected opposition -- in the form of lawsuits from pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood or the Center for Reproductive Rights, have yet to materialize.
Mary Spaulding Balch, a pro-life attorney who is the state legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says abortion advocates may not want to have a national discussion on the pain unborn children feel because it draws attention to their humanity and need for legal protection.
But Balch's point is well-taken. Fighting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would be a public relations nightmare, especially against the backdrop of laws prohibiting animal cruelty. As public opinion becomes more pro-life, abortion advocates must disguise their position as moderate if they are to stay relevant.