WASHINGTON - Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, said last week he will push for a national prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, just one day after a court ruled a similar law in Arizona unconstitutional.
Franks expressed confidence that the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - which he said consists of the "most left-wing zealots in America on the courts" - will be overturned.
"Over 90 percent of the time they're overturned," Franks said. "So given their track record, if they had upheld it I should be worried. There is no question in my mind ... that the ruling will be overturned."
But Janet Crepps, an attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued the challenge of the Arizona law, thinks Franks is engaging in "wishful thinking."
"There's no basis for him to believe that the Supreme Court, after 40 years, will ban these procedures again," Crepps said. "I don't think the bill should or will make it into law, and it's not a good use of congressional time."
But Franks said the recent headline-grabbing conviction of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell for murder of viable fetuses in several abortions increases the chances for his bill.
Franks said Gosnell represents the "face of abortion on demand" and that his bill would prevent similar situations in the future.
"If he (Gosnell) had done it five minutes earlier, before the baby had traveled down the birth canal, it would have been perfectly legal," Franks said of the procedures that led to the physician's convictions last week.
Franks' bill would prohibit the abortion of a "pain-capable" fetus, which it defines as a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy, or 22 weeks gestational age.
Arizona passed a similar state law last year, but that was declared unconstitutional Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the circuit court. The judges said because the Arizona law "extends the abortion ban to the period between 20 weeks gestation and fetal viability," it "deprives the women to whom it applies the ultimate decision to terminate their pregnancies prior to fetal viability."
It is not clear how the state will respond. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was still reviewing the ruling Wednesday "to determine whether he will seek further review of the court's decision," according to a statement from his office.
Franks' bill only applied to the District of Columbia when it was introduced last month. But he said Wednesday, backed by some of the more than 100 House cosponsors on the bill, that it would be amended to apply nationwide.
Marilyn Musgrave, the vice president for government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, said the Gosnell conviction revealed to the nation "what is really going on" during abortions.
"There is a very thin line between murder and legal abortions," said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., one of the cosponsors.
Franks introduced a similar D.C. abortion bill in the last session of Congress, but that measure died in the House. He said he is undeterred.
"No matter what happens in one of these late-term situations, a nameless little baby dies a tragic and lonely death," Franks said of his motivation. "That is a fact."