Senate Votes to Block Bill Banning Abortion After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

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Pro-life demonstrators / Getty Images
January 29, 2018

The Senate on Monday blocked a bill that would ban abortion after the mother reaches 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed the House 237-189 in October, fell short of the 60 votes it needed to pass the Senate. A bipartisan majority voted 51-46 in favor of the bill, but those senators were unable to overcome the filibuster blocking the bill's passage.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) sponsored the bill on the floor of the Senate, which President Donald Trump publicly supported during the March for Life on Jan. 19. Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Penn.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the bill.

The bill would have made it illegal for a person to perform, or even attempt to perform, an abortion if the fetus was at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation. A person in violation would have been criminally charged with a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

Under the proposed legislation, a woman who sought an abortion at this point in the pregnancy would be charged with conspiring to violate the bill’s provisions.

There would be exceptions to the bill’s outlined regulation on those whose life is endangered by the pregnancy or became pregnant through rape or incest.

During Monday’s arguments on the Senate floor, Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said new scientific studies have proven that babies can feel pain at 20 weeks in the womb.

"As early as 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is about halfway through the pregnancy, scientists and our doctors now tell that is this unborn baby can feel pain," Sasse said.

In an official statement from the White House, Trump said it was "disappointing that despite support from a bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators, this bill was blocked from further consideration."

"Scientific studies have demonstrated that babies in the womb feel pain at twenty weeks," Trump said.

The United States is one of seven countries in the world that allow abortions at 20 weeks. China and North Korea are some of the few that allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

"We must defend those who cannot defend themselves. I urge the Senate to reconsider its decision and pass legislation that will celebrate, cherish, and protect life," Trump said.