House Passes Bill Banning Abortion After 20 Weeks, Future Uncertain in Senate

Abortion, protest

Getty Pro-choice activists (L) argue with Pro-life activists (R) on abortion issues in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 23, 2006 in Washington, DC.

The U.S. House passed a bill today banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s life; the legislation will now move to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation, called the Pain-Capable Unborn Children Act, has passed in the House twice previously but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. In 2013, it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and in 2015, the motion was withdrawn.

“It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain, and give them a chance to grow and live full and happy lives,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said upon announcing the vote last week.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states already have laws in place banning abortions after 20 weeks; six more use 24 weeks as the cut off.

However, data from Planned Parenthood suggests that most Americans do not support a 20 week ban: 78 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans when polled said it was “the wrong issue for lawmakers to be spending time on.”

The pro-choice advocacy group states that nearly 99 percent of abortions take place prior to 21 weeks. “This dangerous, out-of-touch legislation is nothing more than yet another attempt to restrict women’s access to safe, legal abortion,” said the organization on its website.


GettyUS President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 23, 2017.

Unlike its two predecessors, this year’s version of thePain-Capable Unborn Children Act has the backing of the White House under current President Donald Trump, who affirmed his support prior to winning election in 2016.

In an open letter to anti-abortion leaders a few months prior to the November election, Trump said he was “committed to … [s]igning into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.” He also pledged to help defund Planned Parenthood, prioritize nominating pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and ensuring that taxpayer money would never fund abortion services.

The White House reiterated its stance in a statement released on Monday: “The administration strongly supports H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections.”

The bill required only a simple majority in the House to pass.

Senate rules also require a simple majority, or 51 votes. However, 60 votes are required to break a filibuster, making it easy for the minority party to block legislation. The GOP currently only hold 52 Senate seats; eight Democrats would have to break from their party and vote in favor of the ban in order for it to be filibuster-proof.

Despite the weight of the White House behind it, the bill is unlikely to succeed in the Senate, where leaders rarely cross party lines on platform issues like abortion. “[It’s] not a near-term priority,” said GOP Whip John Cornyn on Monday when asked whether the Senate would consider the legislation.

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