House committee advances national late-term abortion ban

The House Judiciary Committee sent a national late-term abortion ban to the floor Wednesday on a vote of 20-12.

The ban is among the most expansive anti-abortion measures offered by Republicans since they claimed the House in 2010. It is expected to pass next week over the objections of Democrats.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill's author, based his legislation on the premise, which is under dispute, that fetuses can feel pain at 22 weeks of pregnancy. 

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Franks defended the measure Wednesday, comparing abortion to slavery and genocide, after Democrats blasted the GOP for waging a "war on women."

"If our society is to survive with our humanity intact, our moral impulse toward our fellow human beings must first survive," Franks said.

"That is why it is so important for people to see for themselves the humanity of these little victims."

Franks's bill would ban nearly all abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy. It originally affected only the District of Columbia, but was expanded last month to apply nationwide.

The ban makes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, women whose health is in danger, or cases of severe fetal anomaly.

Democrats spent most of Wednesday's markup offering amendments to add these exceptions, which are strongly supported by the public. 

The measures failed to pass the GOP-led panel after Republicans said they would be abused.

Federal courts have taken issue with "fetal pain" laws, which ban abortion before viability in contradiction to Roe v. Wade.

Opponents of Franks's bill argued Wednesday that it presents an "extreme view of the abortion question [that is] at odds with the science," in the words of Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.).

Nadler also blasted Republicans, saying they believe that women are "too immoral or too stupid" to make their own decisions about abortion.

The markup drew wider interest after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted that no GOP women sit on the Judiciary panel.

At one point, Franks also said that the incidence of pregnancy caused by rape is "very low."

The remark drew criticism and earned Franks a comparison with former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin (Mo.), who was widely panned in 2012 when he said cases of "legitimate rape" rarely result in pregnancy. 

Studies have suggested that the opposite is true, and Akin later apologized for the remark.

Following a lunch recess, Franks said he intended to say that late-term abortions performed on victims of rape are infrequent.

"I would hope that my comments would be heard in the spirit that they were offered," Franks said.