20 Week Abortion Ban Fails to Win Enough Senate Support

Congressional Republican efforts to limit legal abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy have stalled, with Senators falling six votes short of the 60 needed to advance the measure in a procedural vote Tuesday. The legislation would have made it a crime to provide a woman with an abortion if she is more than five months along in her pregnancy. 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins was one of only two Republicans to vote against the bill, citing a lack of protections for women’s health as her reason. While the legislation does except cases where abortion is “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman,” this only applies if her life is threatened “by a physical disorder, illness, or injury, excluding psychological or emotional conditions.” And it only applies to life-threatening situations, meaning a pregnant woman who faced serious medical complications or health problems that fall short of fatal must still carry to term. 

“The bill before us provides no exceptions for when the physical health of the mother is at risk of serious harm,” Collins said on the Senate floor, calling this a “glaring deficiency.” Stressing that she shared Republicans’ goal of banning most abortions after 20 weeks, Collins asked “Do we want the threat of prison for a doctor who knows his patient needs chemotherapy or radiation treatments?”  

Aside from Collins, the only other Republican who voted against the bill was Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk. 

Those supporting the bill were almost exclusively Republicans, though three Democrats (Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin) voted in favor of the abortion ban. Three Democrats (California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren) and one Republican (Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski) abstained from voting.