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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 22, 2016 02:54 PM
From: Senator Michele Brooks
To: All Senate members
Subject: Pain-Capable/Dismemberment Legislation
Due to the significant advances in medicine and evidence, I plan to introduce legislation amending the Abortion Control Act to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. As in current law, this limitation would not apply in situations where an abortion is necessary to prevent the death or impairment of a major bodily function of a woman. In addition, this legislation would prohibit the practice of tearing a fetus apart by its limbs, also called dismemberment abortion.

Research indicates that an unborn child at 20 weeks or less of gestational development likely has a zero percent chance of survival. However, due to significant scientific advances in medicine, a baby’s viability increases 40 to 70 percent at 24 weeks. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, overall survival rates for premature babies between 22 and 24 weeks increased to 79 percent in 2012, up from 70 percent in 1993. Additionally, about 1/3 of premature babies, born at 23 weeks, will survive.

This legislation also helps protect the health and well-being of a pregnant female. Although death rarely results, after the first trimester, a woman’s risk of death as a result of complications from the procedure increase dramatically. A woman is 35 times more likely to die at 20 weeks and 91 times more likely after 21 weeks, than if the procedure was performed in the first trimester. Additionally, the risk of death increases exponentially by 38% for each additional week of gestation.

By 20 weeks, babies have developed all of the physical structures necessary to experience pain, and studies have shown that they react to painful stimuli. During fetal surgery, an unborn baby who is administered anesthesia has a decrease in stress hormones compared to when painful stimuli is applied without anesthesia.

In light of medical advancements, over the past several years, 15 states have now begun to reduce the maximum gestational age for legal abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. These states include, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Additionally, Governor John Kasich of Ohio just recently signed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in that state.

I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB3