Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that bans abortions after 20 weeks of gestation in the District of Columbia without exceptions for rape, incest or health of the mother.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the sponsor of the bill, said the 20-week ban is based on medical evidence that fetuses can feel pain at that point. "This is a bill to protect children from being torturously dismembered while they are fully capable of feeling pain," he told his colleagues during a mark-up of the bill on Wednesday.

The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, when asked about the fetal pain issue, said in a statement that it "knows of no legitimate scientific information that supports the statement that a fetus feels pain."

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee unanimously opposed the bill, not only because it challenges the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protects abortions until the fetus is viable outside the womb, but also because it singles out D.C. women and lacks an exception for cases in which a woman's health is jeopardized by her pregnancy.

"This bill would jeopardize a woman's health and her ability to have children in the future," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said. "In the case of rape or incest [it] would force her to bear her abuser's child, so I can't even fathom how such an absurd proposal could be seriously brought before this committee, except for one reason: It applies only to the women who reside in our nation's capital."

Republicans rejected several of the Democrats' proposed amendments to the bill, including Rep. Mike Quigley's (D-Ill.) amendment to allow pregnant women with cancer to undergo life-saving treatment that could be incompatible with the pregnancy and Rep. Jerry Nadler's (D-N.Y.) amendment to add an exception for when the health of the mother is at risk.

Franks said the health exception "would allow for easy circumvention by abortionists."

District of Columbia delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton's (D) request to testify at the mark-up was denied, but she submitted testimony for the record.

"Republicans do not dare take on the women of this country who have voting Members of the House and Senate with a post-20-week ban on abortions," she said. "Instead, the majority has chosen a cheap and cynical way to make an ideological point during an election year. D.C. residents and officials...will never accept second-class treatment of our city and, most especially, of our women."

The bill now advances to a full House vote.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • 99 Problems (JAY-Z)

    Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."

  • Talk (Coldplay)

    The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."

  • Just My Imagination (The Temptations)

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.

  • Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."

  • Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)

    Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

  • We Don't Care (Kanye West)

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."