Minnesota GOP Looks to Pass Fetal Pain Bill

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 1:42 PM EST

It's getting hard to keep up with the litany of bills across the country that would seek to drastically limit abortion rights. The latest comes from Republicans in the Minnesota legislature, and, if passed, would be one of the most restrictive laws in the country.

From the Minnesota Independent:

The bill, SF649/HF936, makes it illegal to perform an abortion after 20 weeks, and, in anticipation of legal challenges to the law, it creates a defense fund for the state using taxpayer money and “any donations, gifts, or grants made to the account by private citizens or entities.”

The bill, dubbed "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," claims that there "is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization." It also states that there is a "compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain."

It's the fifth bill that the state's Republicans have introduced this legislative session to restrict abortion rights, the Independent reports.

This type of "fetal pain" legislation isn't really new—Nebraska passed a similar bill last year, and state lawmakers in Iowa and five other states are attempting to do the same, as RH Reality Check reports. All are based on the argument that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks into a pregnancy—but that isn't actually supported by the science, which indicates that it's closer to the 27-week point in the development of the fetus. More broadly, though, the bills seek to substitute the opinion of politicians about when a fetus can feel pain for what a woman and her doctor believe is best in a particular case. The Des Moines Register has a heart-breaking story this week about how Nebraska's law forced one woman to give birth to a dramatically premature child that her doctor knew would not survive.

This is just the latest in a slew of anti-abortion measures around the country. Last month, Virginia passed a law that will regulate abortion clinics the same way as hospitals, which abortion rights advocates say will make it much harder to obtain first-trimester abortions. Georgia, Ohio, and Texas have also offered bills that would dramatically limit access to abortions. Iowa and Nebraska have put forward justifiable homicide bills that could potentially legalize the killing of abortion providers. And while South Dakota recently shelved a similar justifiable homicide measure, the state passed a bill last week that forces women to seek counseling at so-called "crisis pregnancy centers," which are generally run by anti-abortion groups, and triples the time women must wait before they can receive an abortion.