By Michael J. McMonagle

At least 1,878 reasons exist to pass House Bill 1948 in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

This bill would ban the killing of children in the womb by dismemberment and ban abortions committed after 20 weeks' gestation, with the same exceptions allowed under current state law, which are in cases of rape or incest, or to prevent the death or loss of major bodily function of the mother.

According to state Health Department statistics for 2014, 328 abortions were performed in the commonwealth after 20 weeks' gestation, and 1,550 children were killed by dismemberment, in a procedure known as a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion.

A D&E abortion is a cruel and barbaric procedure. Dr. Anthony Levatino, who has committed 1,200 abortions, described the reality of the procedure in testimony before a U.S. House committee on May 17, 2012:

"The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby's head. . . . You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. . . . Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you."

Dismemberment abortions cause immense pain to the children in the womb. Leading physicians have long confirmed the medical reality that by the end of their first trimester of life, children feel and react to the pain of abortion. In a Feb. 13, 1984, letter to President Ronald Reagan, a group of 26 physicians wrote in support of a statement he had made about fetuses suffering "long and agonizing" pain during abortion, concluding, "Mr. President, in drawing attention to the capability of the human fetus to feel pain, you stand on firmly established ground."

Defenders of D&E abortions assert that these procedures are necessary to prevent the births of children with disabilities or with life-threatening conditions. However, children with disabilities before birth deserve the same legal protections as children after they are born. Furthermore, such an argument has dire consequences for all vulnerable born human beings.

Byron Calhoun is an obstetrician and gynecologist with vast experience in treating expectant mothers and children diagnosed with disabilities or life-threatening conditions. In his 2012 testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee, Calhoun explained that the medically proper and compassionate care for such children is perinatal hospice, not to "get it over with" by dismembering the child in the womb.

The legal forces of the pro-abortion movement, in response to abortion laws passed from 1974 to 1989, routinely used the argument, "The law is unconstitutional." These laws include parental consent, informed consent, and the ban on post-24-week abortions. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of all of these laws.

In 2007, in Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld, 5-4, the constitutionality of the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The majority opinion defended the constitutionality of this ban and cited the child's capability to feel pain caused by D&E abortions, which are "laden with the power to devalue human life." If it applied this rationale consistently, the court would uphold the constitutionality of H.B. 1948 if it were challenged.

H.B. 1948 does have its flaws. In 2014, according to the state Health Department, abortionists in Pennsylvania killed a total of 32,126 children before birth. Sad to say, H.B. 1948 would have protected only 1,878 of these children.

After 27 years of no successful pro-life legislative initiatives by the General Assembly, H.B. 1948 is a welcome start toward a day when all children in the commonwealth are welcomed in life and protected by law. The General Assembly should not cower before Gov. Wolf and Planned Parenthood but should promptly pass this pro-life legislation.

Michael J. McMonagle is the president of the Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania.