Democrats defeated two measures Tuesday aimed at highlighting late-pregnancy abortions, in votes raised by Republican leaders ahead of the 2020 elections to put their opponents on the record over a controversial practice.
The bills needed 60 votes to advance but did not meet that threshold. The result was expected because Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided on abortion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has typically shied away from holding votes on bills that have no chance at passage, instead shepherding through President Trump’s judicial nominees. But Republicans are hoping that their support for the measures can rally socially conservative voters.
The first bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would fine or imprison doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill made exceptions for cases where the pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, but not her health or the health of her fetus, and for cases of rape or incest.
The other bill, the Born-Alive Infant Child Protection Act, would mandate that babies born alive after failed abortions get transferred to a hospital and receive the same care as a premature infant. The last time the “Born Alive” bill came to the Senate floor, last February, the vote was held under “unanimous consent,” a procedural move that allows any one senator to block passage, preventing a roll call vote putting all senators on the record.
“Having these two votes come back to back absolutely puts pro-abortion Democrats on the defense,” said Mallory Quigley, spokeswoman for Susan B. Anthony List, which supports politicians who oppose abortion. “We are asking them to support popular legislation, compassionate legislation to save babies and to stop late-term abortion. If they can’t do that, can they then take a stand for born children who have survived abortions?” The organization intends to use the votes against Democrats this election season as it canvasses in states.
The measures were aimed at Democratic senators such as Doug Jones of Alabama, who faces a tough reelection battle. Jones voted against the 20-week abortion ban but for the “Born Alive” bill.
Senators mostly voted along party lines, though some diverged. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the 20-week ban but for the “Born-Alive” bill. Democrats Joe Manchin and Bob Casey joined most Republicans in supporting the 20-week ban and the “Born-Alive” bill.
The vote on the 20-week ban failed 53-44, and the vote on the “Born-Alive” bill failed 56-41.
Trump had called for Congress to vote on the bills and has embraced a title by advocates who call him “the most pro-life president in history.” The president promised he would sign both bills into law if they should reach his desk.
In urging his Democratic colleagues to vote against the measures, Senate Minority Chuck Schumer dubbed them “extreme anti-choice bills” and a “show vote.”
“These bills are not intended to fix real problems faced by real Americans; they are intended to provoke fear and misunderstanding about a very difficult issue so Republicans can score political points with their far-right base,” Schumer said.
The United States is among a handful of countries that allows abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy. The other countries are Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and North Korea. The practice is permitted here because the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision said states must allow abortion until fetal viability, which is generally understood to be about 24 weeks. Its companion Doe v. Bolton ruling provided for abortions after viability when a woman’s life or health is threatened.
Federal data and data from the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, shows that roughly 1.3% of overall abortions, or between 9,000 and 11,000 abortions a year, happen after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Advocates of 20-week bans say a fetus can feel pain at this stage, while abortion rights groups have said there isn’t evidence for that assessment. They counter that women who have abortions late in pregnancy are often faced with genetic results that indicate if the child is born, he or she will be disabled or will not survive. The position of abortion rights groups is that abortion should be allowed through pregnancy, without limits, a stance also embraced by the Democratic presidential candidates. They note some women may have tried to access abortion earlier but were blocked by state restrictions.
“Healthcare decisions should be made by patients and their trusted healthcare provider, not by politicians in the Senate,” said Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at Planned Parenthood. “These bills push misinformation meant to end access to abortion and serve no other purpose than to shame patients and deny people the ability to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families.”
There is no robust study breaking down exactly how often women seek later abortions due to life endangerment, fetal anomaly, problems finding a doctor, or other reasons. Data about how many failed abortions instead result in live births is also unreliable.
Author: Kimberly Leonard
Source: Washington Examiner: Democrats defeat 20-week abortion ban and bill requiring care for abortion survivors