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 CaseyLicense to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE, Jr. (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySome in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections MORE (W.Va.), who all oppose abortion rights, joined Republicans in voting to advance the bill. Republican Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump GOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill 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 McConnellFormer Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring 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 ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster 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 Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list 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 Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list 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 Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks 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.