- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2018

Senate Republicans lost their bid Monday to limit abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy — but not before extracting a pound of flesh from Senate Democrats seeking re-election this year.

Republicans forced their Democratic counterparts to vote on the record against a bill that would have outlawed abortions after five months’ gestation — votes that very likely will be cited in November’s midterm elections.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act failed to make it out of debate Monday in the Senate, falling in a 51-46 vote. House Republicans passed the bill along party lines in October for the third time in five years, but it lacked 60 votes to overcome a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

The legislation contained exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.

Three Democrats — Sens. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — broke party lines to vote for the bill, as they did in 2015. All three are up for re-election this year in states that President Trump won in 2016.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin voted against the bill. All four also are up for re-election this year in states won by Mr. Trump.

Deanna Wallace, director of legal communication at Americans United for Life, said it’s “very telling that Democratic senators are blocking this bill and are opposed to such a common-sense measure.”

“Large majorities of voters in battleground states support this legislation,” Ms. Wallace said. “Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing that this is becoming less of a partisan issue as people are more informed about the science on the issue.”

Polls commissioned by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List show majorities in six battleground states that swung for Mr. Trump — Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin — support limiting abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Majorities in Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin also said they would be less likely to vote for a senator who opposed the pain-capable legislation, the poll found.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said voting against the 20-week abortion ban is political suicide.

“Voting to keep the brutality of late-term abortion legal isn’t just morally abhorrent, it defies national consensus and is a major political liability,” Ms. Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In floor debate Monday, senators in favor of the legislation pointed out that unborn children are routinely given anesthesia during in-utero surgical procedures due to their ability to feel pain. They also pointed to laws that count homicides against pregnant mothers twice.

Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, said science and common sense tell us that an unborn child at 20 weeks of development is a child like any other.

“These babies can detect light, hear sounds, they can swallow and even experience taste as their taste buds grow and develop,” Ms. Ernst said. “These unborn babies in all ways are babies. There is also significant scientific evidence that at five months of development, these babies can feel pain.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the legislation reflects “mainstream consensus that unborn children should not be subjected to elective abortion after 20 weeks.”

“There are only seven countries left in the world that permit this,” Mr. McConnell said. “That includes, unfortunately, the United States, along with China and North Korea. It is long past time that we heed both science and common-sense morality and remove ourselves from this very undistinguished list.”

According to the Susan B. Anthony List poll, 78 percent of millennials, 70 percent of African-Americans, 57 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of Democrats support limiting abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A Marist Poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found 63 percent of Americans support the pain-capable legislation, compared to 33 percent who are against it.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, said Monday’s vote is “part of a broad and sustained assault by Republican politicians on women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies.”

“If it passes, this unconstitutional bill would put women’s lives and women’s health at risk,” Ms. Warren said. “Government officials who seek to insert themselves between women and their doctors ought to listen to the women whose lives are on the line and the doctors who care for them.”

Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, called the legislation a “deeply harmful,” “politically motivated, partisan bill that is engineered to drive us apart and hurt women.”

“It goes against the Constitution, against medical experts and against the rights of women across the country,” she said.

Mr. Trump called Monday’s vote “disappointing.”

“The vote by the Senate rejects scientific fact and puts the United States out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations, including China and North Korea, allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,” the president said in a statement. “We must defend those who cannot defend themselves.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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