After a long political struggle that began shortly after Republicans took back the House from Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010, the GOP-led chamber Wednesday passed 242-184, along party lines, a significant new restriction on abortion access during the final trimester of pregnancy.
The impetus for Wednesday’s action was the anniversary of a controversial abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell.
On this day two years ago, Gosnell was found guilty of killing Baby A, Baby C and Baby D, as they are known in court records, by snipping their necks in a gruesome late-term procedure still legal in the United States. He was also convicted on hundreds of lesser charges ranging from infanticide to running a corrupt organization.
Alabama’s delegation was decidedly in favor of Wednesday’s action, also along party lines.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby spoke out emphatically in favor of the bill earlier Wednesday on the House floor.
“This is such an important measure on behalf of those who don’t have a voice and can feel pain,” Roby said. “And it’s a shame that such a humane and compassionate measure has opposition at all. Especially since great care has been taken to protect women and babies in this bill. If we won’t stop abortions at five months when unborn babies feel pain, when will we stop it?”
“There have to be limits. And even those of us who want to end abortion altogether, in any form, we support this restriction. You know why? Because it protects babies, it saves babies, it protects women, and it assigns a greater value to human life.”
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne was also a strong “yes” vote for the bill. He told Alabama Today that the continued existence of late-term abortions is barbaric.
“The United States is one of only seven countries, along with the likes of North Korea and China, who still allow abortions after 20 weeks,” Byrne said Wednesday evening. “Scientific studies show that at 20 weeks babies can feel pain, and it is unconscionable that those kinds of procedures are allowed right here in the United States. It is time we change that. Today, I voted in favor of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and ensure that both the mother and the baby receive the care they deserve.”
The Alabama delegation was not unanimous: Democratic U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a well-known pro-choice advocate, voted “no” along with the vast majority of her caucus.
Alabama’s Rep. Gary Palmer said in a prepared statement, after voting in favor of the bill, “The right to life is central to everything I believe. Abortions that occur more than halfway through pregnancy are particularly abhorrent, which is when science informs us the unborn child can feel pain. There is widespread agreement that abortions after 20 weeks should be prohibited.
“America was horrified by the crimes of Dr. Kermit Gosnell … Whether the child is killed inside or outside of the womb makes little difference, and I am proud to support this measure as well as others to protect the unborn and move our society in a direction of one that respects life.”