Wednesday marked the second time in two years the House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban. But this time, as opposed to the bill’s passage in 2013, Republicans have the benefit of a GOP-controlled Senate and a majority leader who has already promised to bring it up for a vote once it’s introduced in the upper chamber.
That doesn’t mean the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is likely to overcome a filibuster by Democrats, a reality the measure’s champions have already acknowledged.
“I can’t promise you we are going to get 60 votes this year,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is expected to introduce a Senate version soon, told anti-abortion activists at the Susan B. Anthony List Gala last month.
Indeed, Senate Democrats’ No. 4, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), has already vowed to “[fight] hard in the Senate to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere,” in a statement after the House vote.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the only Democrat on record saying he will support the bill, and even if Republicans bring the rest of the left’s anti-abortion contingency — Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) — on board, they will fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation, which also faces a veto by the President.
Graham and other supporters have compared the measure’s prospects to that of the partial birth abortion ban, which was vetoed twice by President Bill Clinton before President George W. Bush signed it in 2003. Likewise, the GOP’s long-term plan for the 20-week ban requires Republicans capturing the White House in 2016.
The question remains whether a losing fight over late-term abortions in the short term will help or hinder politically the GOP’s presidential contenders, who have lined up in favor of the legislation.
Republicans are betting that even a losing effort can win over those on the fence about abortion, particularly abortions late in the pregnancy: polling shows a solid majority of Americans — otherwise split on abortion — favor a ban after 20 weeks. Furthermore, Republicans see it having a special appeal with much-sought-after Hispanic voters, who are heavily Catholic with a strain of social conservatism.
However, Democrats hope it puts the GOP on track for another Todd Akin moment. Before its passage this week, the legislation had mired House Republicans in a controversy over its rape exemption language, prompting an embarrassed leadership to withdraw it from its initially scheduled vote back in January.
So far, top Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not shying from the fight.
“Politicians should not interfere with personal medical decisions, which should be left to a woman, her family and her faith, in consultation with her doctor or health care provider,” her campaign’s senior policy advisor Maya Harris said in a statement Wednesday.