The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Oct. 3 that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Trent Franks, was approved in a 237 to 189 vote, according to Vox.
President Donald Trump is committed to signing such a bill into law, but its passage in the Senate is not likely. It would require 60 votes to adopt the bill, but Republicans have a 52 to 48 majority.
"The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized," said GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, Vox reported. "It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain."
The bill alleges that "there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier."
Opponents of the bill strongly dispute this. Amy Friedrich-Karnik of the Center for Reproductive Rights said the bill is "basically relying on junk science."
"There's actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren't completely laid down and working yet until much further along in pregnancy, we think even the third trimester," added Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University.
Research conducted in 2005 suggested that premature babies could not feel pain at 29 or 30 weeks. In the 12 years since the study was published, no research has disproved this finding.
Conti stated that the 20-week limit "is just an arbitrary limit set in place by politicians that has no medical or scientific backing."
The House bill would impose a penalty of up to five years in prison for any doctor performing an abortion after the 20-week limit. Exceptions would be made if the life of the mother is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.
Women would not be penalized for seeking an abortion under the bill.
Some states have already imposed an abortion ban at 20 weeks. Women seeking to terminate a pregnancy after that point are forced to travel to states where the procedure is still legal.
Conti argued that even if the bill does not become law, the fact that it passed the House could have a serious effect.
"By even putting this issue on a national platform," she added, "you're misleading the American people."
Sen. Lindsey Graham indicated Oct. 3 he would introduce a bill in the Senate modeled on the House measure.
The White House said Oct. 2 that it "strongly supports" the bill and "applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections," The Hill reported.