Anti-abortion group targets swing-state senators on 20-week ban


The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) is launching a new series of web ads targeting swing-vote senators on a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

{mosads}The “six-figure” ad buy comes the week before Congress returns from its August recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged a Senate vote on the bill, which has already passed the House, but has not specified a timeframe. 

The ads will run in the home states of Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). SBA List says the campaign also includes constituent calls to the senators asking them to vote for the ban.  

Donnelly opposes abortion and voted to defund Planned Parenthood last month. Heitkamp represents a red state, and Murkowski, who generally supports abortion rights, faces a reelection race next year and also voted to move ahead with defunding Planned Parenthood last month. 

Casey, who opposes abortion, wrote in an op-ed in the Scranton Times-Tribune last month that he will support the ban if it includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.  

Heitkamp’s office indicated Tuesday she would oppose the 20-week ban. 

“Senator Heitkamp believes reproductive decisions should be left to a woman, her family, and her doctor, and it isn’t up to the government to determine what that timeline should be,” spokeswoman Abigail McDonough wrote in an email. 

“She also supports the Hyde amendment and a state’s right to mandate parental consent for minors or restrict partial birth abortions, except when medically necessary to protect the life of the woman.”

Donnelly and Murkowski have not taken a public position on the 20-week ban.

The bill faces a steep climb to reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate in order to move forward. Casey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are the only Democratic senators who have so far indicated they would support it. 

Still, the bill could force tough votes for some members.  

SBA List is trying to use the uproar over the undercover Planned Parenthood videos to boost support for the 20-week bill. 

“Now we learn that Planned Parenthood is targeting these same late-term children to harvest their organs for money,” the ads state

Planned Parenthood denies wrongdoing and says the money being discussed in the videos is legal compensation for expenses.

Supporters of the ban make the disputed assertion that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. 

“The horrifying investigative videos of Planned Parenthood harvesting the organs of babies after late-term abortions only deepens the need for this legislation,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List, said in a statement. 

SBA List also commissioned polling showing majorities in all four states supporting the bill. 

It also points to a series of other polls showing support for 20-week bans. A 2013 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 44 percent of adults favor the 20-week ban while 37 percent oppose it. 

If passed, the ban could face a court challenge. Federal courts have in the past struck down some state 20-week bans as violating Supreme Court precedent protecting abortions up to the point of viability, generally considered to be around 24 weeks. Some state bans remain in place.

– Updated at 7:24 p.m.

Tags Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Robert Casey
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