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Senate rejects effort to advance anti-abortion bills

Sandhya Raman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The Senate fell short on Tuesday in limiting debate on whether to take up two bills that are abortion policy priorities for Republicans and President Donald Trump.

The votes come the week before the Supreme Court holds oral arguments in a highly anticipated case involving a Louisiana abortion law, which is the first abortion case since the confirmation of conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

As state lawmakers have doubled down on passing restrictions earlier in pregnancy, national Republican lawmakers have turned their focus to abortion restrictions later in pregnancy.

The two Senate bills include one that would ban abortion at about 20 weeks gestation with some exceptions. The effort to limit debate on proceeding to the measure was defeated, 53-44, since 60 votes were required. Republicans who voted against the cloture motion were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Democrats who voted for it were Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

The other bill, which Republicans say would guarantee protections for an infant born alive after an attempted abortion, fell short, 56-41, on a similar procedural vote. All the Republicans voted for it, as did Democrats Doug Jones of Alabama, Manchin and Casey. Three senators who are running for the Democratic presidential nomination were absent.

Trump promised advocates while campaigning in 2016 that he would sign the 20-week abortion ban into law and again alluded to both bills at this year's State of the Union address and the March for Life rally. Republican lawmakers have portrayed the second bill as a way to find common ground with Democrats on abortion policy.

 

The vote comes at a busy time for abortion policy. Prior to the Presidents Day recess, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on protections for infants that survive an attempted abortion, while the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on expanding abortion rights.

The House also passed a joint resolution that would extend the deadline for a gender equity constitutional amendment despite fierce opposition from anti-abortion groups who worry it would limit state abortion restrictions.

Most states have some limits on abortion access, but lawmakers have struggled to replicate most of these restrictions at a federal level.

The Guttmacher Institute, a left-leaning reproductive health research organization, found that 43 states have a restriction based on gestational age. Bans stricter than 20 weeks have not passed muster in the courts thus far.

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