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Republican Platform Adds To Abortion Position, Endorses Dubious Fetal Pain Claim

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Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), author of the D.C. 20-week abortion ban
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), author of the D.C. 20-week abortion ban

The 2012 GOP platform features a bold new development in the party's position on abortion: an official endorsement of the medically unsupported claim that fetuses can feel pain before they are viable.

The platform calls for legislation "to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain" and "applaud[s] U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia."

The District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, authored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the claim that fetuses can feel pain at that point. Several states, including Nebraska, have passed similar so-called "fetal pain bills."

In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists takes the position that there is no legitimate scientific information that supports the statement that a fetus experiences pain. A 2011 study in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics found no conclusive evidence that fetuses feel pain or are viable at 20 weeks, and a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fetuses are likely incapable of feeling pain until the third trimester.

The D.C. abortion ban sparked a lively protest at Frank's office and failed to pass in the Republican-controlled House. The fact that the Republican Party is touting it and endorsing the medical claim behind it marks a bold development in the party's official position on abortion.

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