More and more states are passing laws that protect children in the womb from abortion once those children are capable of feeling pain. We will soon see similar movement at the federal level.

In January, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., introduced a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. According to Congress.gov, "This bill amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more." It has 127 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

This is a big leap forward. Instead of merely regulating abortion, it actually protects many children from abortion altogether. Our colleagues at the National Right to Life Committee have crafted this model legislation and have done fantastic work in advancing it. Unfortunately, most people aren't aware of these bills and sometimes don't find out about them until they have already died in committee.

But now is the time to shout them from the rooftops, and to challenge candidates for public office to take a stand on them. As we prepare for the 2018 congressional elections, these bills should be an election issue. If the pro-life movement can gain a super-majority in the Senate, bills similar to this will be passed and signed into law on the federal level. But again, a lot of public education is needed in the meantime.

A pain-capable unborn child protection bill is an incredibly important step to ending abortion. Unlike most other bills or policies regulating abortion or seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, these types of bills stand out because their focus is on protecting the child. This does not mean we should stop working towards these other worthy goals when we can. It's simply that this new bill and others like it are a game changer.

This bill stands out because its name points to the party affected most by this law -- the child. Phrases and words such as "pain-capable," "children," and "protection" add a much-needed human element to the conversation. The legislative language and movement is changing in a positive direction towards personhood. We are starting to see more decisive and active protection for these children. And we are talking about protecting children from pain, a reality that everyone understands, and that removes the abortion debate from the world of abstractions, which is where abortion supporters prefer it to be.

Babies in the womb do feel pain, and much earlier than the medical community once thought. The evidence is vast and wide. The following excerpt was taken from testimony of Colleen A. Malloy, MD Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology/ Department of Pediatrics Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine:

"There is ample biologic, physiologic, hormonal, and behavioral evidence for fetal and neonatal pain. As early as 8 weeks postfertilization, face skin receptors appear. At 14 weeks, sensory fibers grow into the spinal cord and connect with the thalamus. At 13-16 weeks, monoamine fibers reach the cerebral cortex, so that by 17-20 weeks the thalamocortical relays penetrate the cortex. Many authors have substantiated that pain receptors are present and linked by no later than 20 weeks postfertilization. (Myers 2004; Derbyshire 2010; Anand 1987; Vanhalto 2000; Brusseau 2008; VanScheltema 2008)".

The vast majority of abortions done in the second trimester are dismemberment abortions where living babies are literally torn limb from limb. This is nothing short of evil and satanic. The public is not widely aware of this procedure or that abortions even happen in the second and third trimester. And most people don't want to see abortion legal beyond the first trimester. A Marist Poll found that only 22 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal after the first trimester.

Nobody wants to see a baby suffer pain. In fact, nobody wants to see even animals suffer unnecessarily. This is evident by the outcry on social media any time a story on animal abuse is posted.

Yet animals have more protection than people. The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act is a United States federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during slaughter. It requires a mandate to have an animal completely sedated and insensible or even unconscious to pain. In other words, our food is treated better than our children.

Obviously our ultimate goal is to end all abortion and to end all cruel suffering of children in the womb. This bill is a great step. It seeks to protect pain-capable children in the womb, which most people intuitively want. As we spread awareness of this legislation, and let people know which members of Congress support protecting these children versus those who seek to strike down these laws, people will naturally gravitate towards choosing leaders who know the difference between serving the public and killing the public.

Father Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the national director of Priests for Life.

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