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 group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir 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 MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Trump administration takes key step to open Alaskan wildlife refuge to drilling by end of year MORE (R-Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHouse passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance Senators say Trump open to expanding background checks Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 MooreSen. Doug Jones launches reelection bid in Alabama Flake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona Omar shares anonymous death threat, speaks out against 'hate' and need for security 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 DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinConservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks The Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers Cruz warns GOP support for expanded background checks could help elect Warren president MORE (W.Va.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines 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 TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty 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: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Trump's sinking polls embolden Democrats to play hardball Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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.