By Senator Tom Cotton
This past week Democrats chose death over human life when they blocked a bill to prohibit late-term abortions. I've learned a lot about the magic of human life since my wife Anna gave birth to our own little angel, Gabriel, five months ago. Like many of you, I believe life begins at conception, and we must do everything in our power to protect the unborn.
From the moment Anna and I discovered she was pregnant, Gabriel was alive and was a part of our family. At barely nine weeks we sat in the doctor's office in Russellville and heard his heartbeat for the first time, bringing tears to both our eyes. A few weeks later, we got one of those perfect ultrasound photos where we saw Gabriel lying on his back, hands near his face, feet and legs kicked up in the air. We now know how much his personality and habits already developed by that point, because we usually find him in that same position when he wakes up from a nap.
All these critical moments happened before the halfway point in Anna's pregnancy -- before Gabriel reached 20 weeks. And while he's precious and one of a kind for us, his experience was that of a typical baby, as both expecting parents and now modern medical science confirm.
Anna carried Gabriel to term, but not all babies are as lucky. Fortunately, thanks to developments in medical science, babies aged just 22 weeks can increasingly survive. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that babies aged 22-24 weeks could survive, with skilled and proper -- though not extraordinary -- medical intervention and treatment.
Likewise, advances in perinatology have made fetal surgery increasingly common and successful, sometimes as early as 18 weeks. These breakthroughs can help correct or ameliorate certain fetal conditions. So not only can 22-week-old babies survive outside the womb, but they also can undergo successful surgery inside the womb. And it's common practice in these surgeries to administer anesthesia not just to the mother, but specifically to the baby in utero, to prevent both from feeling any pain.
In other words, medical science increasingly confirms the common experience of parents and the religious and ethical belief of the ages: An unborn baby is just as much a person as you, as I, as each of us -- only more innocent, more helpless and therefore even more deserving of protection. Especially by the halfway point of a pregnancy, they feel pain and they seek life.
That's why it's particularly heartbreaking that such babies are killed in our country. Here in Arkansas, abortions beyond 20 weeks are illegal, but that's not the case everywhere. Just five blocks from the White House there is an abortionist who advertises on his website for abortions without restrictions up to 26 weeks -- far past the medically accepted point of viability.
By some estimates, 10,000 babies 20 weeks or older are aborted each year. By this point, most Americans have seen the gruesome videos of Planned Parenthood officials callously discussing the dismemberment of babies to harvest and sell their organs. They cavalierly talk about using "less crunchy" procedures to preserve the organs, subjecting the baby to excruciating pain and death for profit.
It's past time to end this barbaric practice and protect these innocent babies. That's why I supported the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit the abortion of babies 20 weeks or older, with certain reasonable and widely supported exceptions.
I understand that abortion provokes strong feelings on both sides of the question. I acknowledge that reasonable people of good will disagree about the law and policy of early-first-term abortions. But I'm mystified as to why we cannot come together and agree to protect babies who feel pain and who can survive outside the womb.
And it's not just me and large majorities of the American people who feel this way; the civilized world overwhelmingly rejects this kind of late-term abortion. Only seven countries allow elective abortion after 20 weeks, including communist dictatorships like China and North Korea, which also inflict forced abortion and sterilization on their people.
By contrast, countries like France, Germany and Norway, which typically have more liberal policies than the U.S., heavily restrict or ban abortion after the first trimester. Our abortion policy is one case where we should be ashamed of our international isolation and follow Europe's lead in protecting innocent life.
In our country, founded as it is on the equal rights of mankind and the unalienable right of life, it's deeply disappointing that the laws don't protect those most innocent lives among us, particularly when medical science now has the ability to do so. These scientific advances, like life itself, are miracles.
These days, it may sometimes seem like a miracle when a law passes in Washington. If that is the case, as a father, an American and a lawmaker, I think a miracle is called for now if it ever was.