Republicans introduce bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy

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Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature introduced a bill Monday that would ban abortion in Minnesota after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act states that fetuses can feel pain after the first 20 weeks and creates a revenue stream for the state to defend the measure against lawsuits if it passes. It’s the fifth bill to restrict abortions in Minnesota offered by Republicans this legislative session, which began in early January. If the bill becomes law it would be one of the most restrictive in the nation.

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.”

“There is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by 20 weeks after fertilization,” the bill reads. “It is the purpose of the state to assert 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.”

Despite the bill’s claims, there is also substantial medical evidence that a fetus isn’t capable of feeling pain until about 24 weeks, but researchers aren’t yet clear about when a fetus’ nervous system begins to process painful stimuli. Since 2005, research has shown that the brain structures are not formed until 28 weeks.

The bill is modeled after a similar bill passed into law in Nebraska last year, and Minnesota joins that state in having the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation.

Nebraska’s law was the topic of a Des Moines Register feature on Sunday about Danielle Deaver, who was prevented by the law from having an abortion for a fetus doctors said wouldn’t survive if born. Doctors told Deaver and her husband that there “was less than a 10 percent chance their child would have a heartbeat and be able to breathe on its own,” the Register reported. “There was an even smaller chance – estimated at 2 percent – that the baby would ultimately be able to perform the most basic functions on its own, such as eating.”

After delivery, the child survived for 15 minutes.

“I get so frustrated,” Deaver told the Register. “I just think if they (lawmakers) thought about their daughter, their sister, their mother, their wife being in this situation, they would never want them to go through that.”

Minnesota’s bill was introduced by Sens. Gretchen Hoffman of Vargas and Warren Limmer of Maple Grove, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean of Dellwood, Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove.