Less than one week after the 114th Congress convened, Republican lawmakers are already working to pass a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Think Progress reports that the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was introduced by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) on the very first day of the 2015 session. The bill passed in the House last year and argues that unborn fetuses can feel pain beyond 20 weeks.
"More than 18,000 'very late term' abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America," Franks wrote in the bill. "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 tortuously killed without even basic anesthesia."
Opponents of the bill point to medical research that states that fetuses cannot feel pain until between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. Critics also note extenuating circumstances, like medical danger to the mother, that might cause a woman to seek an abortion after 20 weeks.
Many lawmakers believe that the bill has the potential to pass in the Senate, especially since the GOP has full control of Congress. Additionally, nine states, including Alabama and Texas, have already banned abortions beyond the 20-week point.
Congress is expected to vote on the bill later this term.