Democrats blocked a bill in the U.S. Senate today that would have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy by a margin of 51 to 46.
Since the bill required 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, it was considered a longshot, but anti-abortion groups have made it a priority putting tremendous political pressure on legislators, and promising to make the failure an issue in the upcoming midterm elections.
The bill which previously passed the House along party lines was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-N.C.), who said he wanted to protect children in the fifth month of pregnancy.
If passed, it would have made it illegal to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with a potential penalty of five years in prison, fines or both. Women who seek an abortion would not be penalized.
Few women actually try to get abortions that late, when chances of the child surviving are slim, However, proponents argued that a study n the New England Journal of Medicine in 2915 found that with medical advances there was a small minority of babies who did survive with few health problems.
Opponents argue that such a ban would infringe on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
“It goes against the Constitution,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), a ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committeee, “and against the rights of women across the country.”
A few Republicans voted against the bill including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat who recently won a high profile special election in Mississippi also voted no on the bill.
Three Democrats who face tough reelection campaigns this fall in states with a large number of anti-abortion voters also voted for the bill. They are Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
Democrats were also critical of all the time, effort and discussion around this bill, which was not likely to pass, at a time there is so much for Senators to consider, including finding a way to keep the government open for business after Feb. 8.
Although national polls show the majority of Americans favor giving a woman the right to make her own personal decision about her body and whether to abort a fetus, it is an emotional issue which has become a hot button among Republicans.
President Trump when speaking at a recent anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. said he was fully supportive of the passage of the bill, and called on Congress to pass it. Trump, who before becoming president favored giving a woman the right to choose, has become an anti-abortion activist since he ran for office and needed the votes of evangelical Christians who are against abortion.
This is indeed a personal and emotional issue for women, and their families, so it is a shame it has become such a political football.
While Republicans claim they do not want to tell people how to live, they do want to tell them what they can do in the bedroom and tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies.