GOP relaunches push to ban late-term abortions

House Republicans are renewing their effort to ban abortion after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy on the disputed premise that fetuses feel pain at that stage. 

On the first day of the new Congress, Reps. Trent FranksTrent FranksOvernight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement House passes 20-week abortion ban Trump administration backs 20-week abortion ban MORE (R-Ariz.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnEquifax breach is the wake-up call we expected Tennessee governor considering Senate run Five major potential Senate candidates MORE (R-Tenn.) reintroduced legislation to stop women from terminating pregnancies starting in the middle of the second trimester.

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The bill, known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, previously passed the House in June 2013. 

Franks compared late abortions to torture in a statement released with the bill. 
 
"More than 18,000 'very late term' abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America," Franks said Tuesday. 

"These are innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia." 

Republicans have sought for more than a decade to draw attention to what they and some medical practitioners consider the pain of fetuses during late-term abortions. 

Bills introduced in as early as 2004 would have required abortion providers to explicitly disclose the possibility of fetal pain to women prior to abortions. 

Some of the measures also offered women the option to have anesthesia administered to the fetus before the procedure. 

Franks's bill received a warm welcome from abortion-rights opponents. 

"As the 114th Congress is sworn in today, we are encouraged to see our pro-life allies wasting no time in the fight to protect the lives of the most vulnerable," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement. 

"It is time to move the United States off the list of only seven countries to allow abortion on demand beyond [20 weeks]." 

Dannenfelser also pointed to polls that reveal public support for a 20-week ban, including among Democrats. 

Late-term abortions are prohibited in at least 12 states, according to a fact sheet produced by NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

The group, which supports abortion rights, called the measures a "dangerous restriction" that violates women's constitutional rights. 

"These bans are so extreme they offend even the most basic sense of common decency," the fact sheet states. 

"NARAL Pro-Choice America does not oppose post-viability bans that include appropriate exceptions for cases in which a woman's life or health are at risk. However, these 20-week bans ignore the question of viability, lack the needed exceptions, and instead are meant as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade." 

The legislation is expected to receive a vote this term in both the House and Senate, which is now controlled by Republicans. 

An aide to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-S.C.) said the senator would reintroduce his companion bill early in the session. 

—This post was changed at 12 p.m. to reflect that 20 weeks falls during the second trimester.