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Democrats block 20-week abortion ban

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The measure failed to advance in a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed.

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Democratic Sens. Robert CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyA historic moment to truly honor mothers Democrats face big headaches on Biden's T spending plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP makes infrastructure play; Senate passes Asian hate crimes bill MORE, Jr. (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Biden to go one-on-one with Manchin There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course MORE (W.Va.), who all oppose abortion rights, joined Republicans in voting to advance the bill. Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTop female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' Utah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.), who support abortion rights, voted against it.

The vote comes amid a roiling debate over Planned Parenthood funding that could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1. 

Republican leaders are hoping the vote on the 20-week abortion ban, which comes the same day that Pope Francis arrives in Washington, will help give members a chance to register their anti-abortion views without running the risk of a government shutdown.

The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. The ban after 20 weeks is based on the idea that a fetus can feel pain at that point in its development, something that remains a matter of fierce debate.

Republicans also pointed out that only seven countries in the world allow abortions after 20 weeks.

“It’s legislation that would allow America to join the ranks of most civilized nations when it comes to protecting the most innocent and vulnerable of life,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.  

Opposing the bill, Planned Parenthood argued that abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare, but are sometimes necessary for medical reasons, like if the baby has a lethal disease that would cause them to die shortly after birth.

“Passing this law would put women in unimaginable situations — needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so,” said Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens.   

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Biden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (Nev.), meanwhile, accused McConnell of “pandering to the extremists in his party” while the clock ticks toward a shutdown.  

“Instead of coming to grips with the reality of the situation, and working with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the Republicans seem more interested in political theater,” Reid said.

The 20-week bill has already passed the House.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE (R-Ohio) assailed Senate Democrats for blocking the bill, calling their stance “indefensible.”

“Science and medical research has shown that by 20 weeks in the womb — five months of pregnancy — unborn babies are capable of feeling pain. It is morally wrong to inflict pain on an innocent human being, but that’s exactly what Senate Democrats and President Obama are supporting by opposing this humane bill,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE said in a statement.

If the ban were ever signed into law, it would almost certainly face a court challenge. Federal courts have in the past struck down some state 20-week laws 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.

As for the way forward to avert a shutdown, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynThere will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 MORE (R-Texas) has indicated that the Senate will later vote on a spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.  

That measure would certainly be blocked by Senate Democrats, after which the Senate would move to vote on a “clean” continuing resolution that does not defund the organization.

No plans are finalized, however, and it remains unclear if House Republicans will accept a “clean” funding bill.

— This story was updated at 1:10 p.m.