Unborn babies can feel pain: Ohio Senate passes 20-week abortion ban

A 3D ultrasound of a 3-inch foetus at about 14 weeks old.(Wikimedia)

Asserting that babies can feel pain even while they're still inside the womb of their mothers, the Ohio Senate recently passed a landmark bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

The Republican-dominated chamber approved Senate Bill 127, or the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" on Wednesday, with 23 lawmakers supporting the premier legislation and nine opposing the measure.

Republican Senators Peggy Lehner and Jay Hottinger authored the newly passed anti-abortion bill. Thirty-three other lawmakers co-sponsored the proposed law.

"There is more to be done and frankly I see no reason why we can't do it together, setting aside our hardened positions on abortion rights and seeking a law that more clearly reflects our understanding of foetal development," Lehner said.

The proposed legislation will now go to the House of Representatives, which is also dominated by Republicans.

If approved into law, the ban is seen to affect only a small number of pregnancies. According to the group Planned Parenthood, most abortions in the United States occur before 21 weeks.

Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, nevertheless welcomed the passage of the proposed legislation, saying it brings the state "down a historic path that is redefining the abortion debate in America."

"With this momentous vote, the Ohio Senate just approved legislation that will help Ohio catch up to the international community's restrictions on abortion," Krider said.

The anti-abortion measure contains a provision that exempts pregnant women who are suffering from medical emergencies. Victims of rape or incest, however, were not covered by the exemption.

A similar bill was passed by the Wisconsin Senate this month. Around 14 other states have bans on 20-week abortions.

In 1973, United States Supreme Court, in its Roe vs. Wade decision, set the foetal viability limit on abortions at 24 weeks.