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Senate Republicans make time for a vote on an abortion ban

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks there's a "consensus" on banning abortions after 20 weeks. No such consensus exists in reality.
An exam room at the Whole Woman's Health clinic, in McAllen, Texas on March 4, 2014. (Photo by Jennifer Whitney/The New York Times/Redux)
An exam room at the Whole Woman's Health clinic, in McAllen, Texas on March 4, 2014.

Congress has a lengthy to-do list -- the deadline for the next government shutdown is next week -- and it's therefore tempting to assume lawmakers would put aside assorted political stunts.

And yet, as the Washington Post reported, the Republican-led Senate made time yesterday to vote on an abortion ban.

A closely divided Senate on Monday blocked a proposed federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks in a vote that is likely to be the first of several ­election-year attempts to highlight the split between Democrats and Republicans.The Pain-Capable Unborn Children Protection Act failed to earn the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle, marking a defeat for opponents of such procedures but fulfilling a pledge by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a vote on the legislation. The vote was 51-46.

The roll call is online here. Note that two Republicans -- Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski -- broke ranks and opposed the measure, while three Democrats -- Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, Indiana's Joe Donnelly, and West Virginia's Joe Manchin -- voted for it.

Defending the bill, McConnell said the legislation "reflects a growing mainstream consensus" that abortions should be banned after 20 weeks. In reality, no such consensus exists.

As we discussed a few months ago, after the House took up the issue, because roughly 99% of abortions occur before the 21st week of a pregnancy, these later terminations tend to involve "rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman's health." It's why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has consistently opposed bills like these.

But GOP leaders pushed the ban anyway, just as they did in the last Congress, and the Congress before that -- knowing in advance that the bills had no chance of success.

After the proposal came up short late yesterday, Donald Trump issued a written that statement that read in part, "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."

The president spent much of his adult life as a supporter of abortion rights.