It would be impossible to wrap up this frenetic week of political and other riveting news without mentioning this week’s vote by the GOP-controlled U.S. House to pass the so-called Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act–a measure that bans abortions after an arbitrary 20 weeks of gestation. As The Hill reports, the measure is moving to the U.S. Senate after passing the House with all four Colorado Republicans voting yes:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a 20-week abortion ban in the Senate on Thursday with the support of 45 GOP senators, two days after a similar bill passed the House.
The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which faces long odds in the upper chamber, would make it illegal for any person to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with the possibility of five years in prison, fines or both…
The legislation is likely to face a tough sell in the Senate. A similar bill passed the House in 2015 but was blocked by Democratic senators.
With only a 52-seat majority, it would be unlikely Senate Republicans could gather the 60 votes needed to move the legislation to President Trump’s desk. Graham still said he’s “100 percent confident” Senate leadership would bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly he would sign this bill if it made it to his desk, so it’s only the Senate requirement of 60 votes to pass most legislation keeping this bill from becoming the law of the land. Trump has also called many times for the Senate to do away with the 60-vote requirement, but an abortion ban bill is probably not the right vehicle for such a radical change, assuming Mitch McConnell ever works up the nerve to try. The bottom line is that the policy is not supported by authoritative science, no matter how many times supporters claim otherwise.
Nevertheless all four Colorado Republican House members voted for the bill, though only the two safe GOP seats issued statements about their vote. Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley was ebullient:
“Science shows us that unborn children not only experience pain but also may have a chance to survive if born at 20 weeks,” Congressman Ken Buck stated. “We have a responsibility to the unborn babies, our families, our communities, and humanity to end the injustice of late-term abortion.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn managed to get just about every canard into a single quote:
“Babies born at 20 weeks are one step closer to protection from abortion now that H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, passed in the House. I am pleased to vote “yes” on legislation that defends the most vulnerable people in our society. The United States is in the unfortunate company of only six other countries, including China and North Korea, in allowing elective abortion so late in a pregnancy. Science has proven that babies in the womb feel pain more acutely than even adults, and a bill that is estimated to save close to 3,000 lives a year is worth fighting for.”
As The Hill reported above, the legislation has 45 GOP cosponsors. Interestingly that list of cosponsors does not include the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado as of this writing! That won’t be good for Gardner’s flagging credibility with his Republican base, but it does show how Gardner’s repeated stumbles on the issue have forced him into a more muted position–this, after all, being a man who once bragged about having circulated petitions for Colorado’s failed “Personhood” amendments at his local church. So that will be another interesting angle on this to see resolved. Or in Cory’s case, see him dodge right up to the vote.
And no, it’s most likely not going to pass. But it’s going to come closer than ever to passing, with only a Senate rule already under threat keeping this abortion ban bill from becoming law. Therein lies an important lesson about the fragility of abortion rights in America today. And if it doesn’t instill a sense of urgency in supporters of abortion rights going into the 2018 elections, it’s tough to see what could.