Dems block 20-week abortion ban

Democrats blocked a bill on Monday that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, a blow to anti-abortion groups that considered its passage a top priority for Congress in 2018.

The bill, authored by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP opens door to holding Kavanaugh committee vote this week Press: Judge Kavanaugh must withdraw Kavanaugh: 'I will not be intimidated into withdrawing' MORE (R-S.C.), was unable to get the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster and proceed to a vote, meaning the bill is effectively dead in the upper chamber.

The bill failed with a 51-46 vote. Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPolice arrest 128 protesting Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill GOP launches counteroffensive on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh protesters descend on Collins, Flake offices on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRosenstein faces Trump showdown Kavanaugh: I'm asking for a 'fair process' Collins: Second Kavanaugh accuser should speak with Senate panel under oath  MORE (R-Maine) were among those who voted "no." Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D), who recently won in a special election against Republican candidate Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points GAO investigating after employee featured in Project Veritas video Roy Moore dismisses Kavanaugh accusation: 'So obvious' when claims come 'just days before a very important event' MORE, also voted "no."

Graham's bill had little chance of passing the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority. It sailed through the House on a party-line vote, 237-189, in October.

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Most Democrats voted against the bill Monday, except for Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos GOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh MORE (W.Va.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMalnutrition Awareness Week spotlights the importance of national nutrition programs Poll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify MORE (Pa.), all of whom are facing tough reelection bids in November.

The legislation would have made it illegal for any person to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the possible penalty of five years in prison, fines or both. A woman seeking an abortion would not be penalized.

About 20 states already have similar bans. Republicans and anti-abortion activists argue the bill is necessary because advances in science and medicine make it possible for babies born prematurely to survive earlier than in previous years.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 found that a small minority of babies born at 22 weeks were able to survive with few health problems.

“We’re trying to proceed to make sure that America will be a better place, that we become part of the mainstream of the world when it comes to protecting unborn children in the fifth month of pregnancy,” Graham said.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE, speaking at the March for Life earlier this month, urged the Senate to pass the bill, declaring that he was with the "pro-life" movement "all the way."

"It is disappointing that despite support from a bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators, this bill was blocked from further consideration," Trump said in a statement following Monday's vote. "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. 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."

Democrats and abortion rights activists, however, argue abortions after 20 weeks are rare and such bans would infringe on a woman's right to make her own health care decisions.

“It goes against the Constitution, against medical experts, and against the rights of women across the country,” said Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: GOP plays defense over pre-existing conditions | Groups furious over new Trump immigration proposal | Public health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Malnutrition Awareness Week spotlights the importance of national nutrition programs Senate Dem: Republicans have 'predetermined' outcome of Kavanaugh hearing MORE (D-Wash.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee.

Democrats also criticized Republicans for holding a vote on a bill that won’t pass instead of focusing on more pressing issues, like reaching a spending deal by Feb. 8, when the government will run out of money.

While the bill failed to pass Monday, anti-abortion groups plan to use it to hit vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2018.

A similar bill failed in the Senate in 2015.

Updated: 6:57 p.m.