News Abortion

Republicans’ 20-Week Abortion Ban Might Get a Senate Vote

Christine Grimaldi

Legal experts believe 20-week bans are unconstitutional because they undermine a key provision of Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion until fetal viability, determined by doctors to be around 24 weeks’ gestation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) delivered on his promise to reintroduce a 20-week abortion ban in the U.S. Senate, even though the bill has slim-to-no chance of passing the chamber and becoming law.

Graham announced his dubiously titled Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act during a Capitol Hill press office just days after Republicans railroaded a U.S. House of Representatives version (HR 36) to victory. The Senate, however, requires a 60-vote threshold to pass most controversial legislation without a potential derailment in the form of a filibuster. Republicans still don’t have the votes since a failed 2015 attempt, even with three Democrats—Sens. Bob Casey (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Joe Manchin (WV)—likely willing to again cross party lines.

Graham told Politico that he doesn’t want Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to blow up the filibuster rule, although the House bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), has lambasted McConnell for keeping it. President Trump, a vocal filibuster foe, pledged to sign a 20-week abortion ban into law as part of his “Pro-Life Coalition” campaign promises.

McConnell’s leadership office still isn’t saying whether he’ll bring the bill up for a vote.

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Graham, who sponsored the 20-week ban in 2013 and 2015, led the GOP’s latest failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He sought not only to limit abortion access, but to effectively kill the ACA’s birth control benefit guaranteeing contraception without co-pay, earning his proposal the reputation of “the worst health care bill yet.”

Anti-choice Republicans and advocates are leveraging the bill against vulnerable Senate Democrats to end the last legislative opposition to a 20-week abortion ban. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser recently told Rewire that the group is capitalizing on Democrats’ self-inflicted vulnerabilities with regard to an abortion “litmus test.”

Graham and company’s 20-week abortion ban is based on medically unsupported and unscientific claims that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation. Major medical groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agree that a fetus does not develop to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester, which begins around week 28 of pregnancy. Doctors who testify otherwise are often “false witnesses” with a history of anti-choice activism.

Rewire’s legislative tracker outlines more details about the National Right to Life copycat legislation.

Legal experts believe 20-week bans are unconstitutional because they undermine a key provision of Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion in the United States until fetal viability, determined by doctors to be around 24 weeks’ gestation.

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