Democrats Block 20-Week Abortion Ban

Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The measure failed to advance in a 54-42 vote, falling short of the 60-vote threshold needed.

Democratic Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who all oppose abortion rights, joined Republicans in voting to advance the bill. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.), who support abortion rights, voted against it.

The vote comes amid a roiling debate over Planned Parenthood funding that could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Republican leaders are hoping the vote on the 20-week abortion ban, which comes the same day that Pope Francis arrives in Washington, will help give members a chance to register their anti-abortion views without running the risk of a government shutdown.

The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. The ban after 20 weeks is based on the idea that a fetus can feel pain at that point in its development, something that remains a matter of fierce debate.

Republicans also pointed out that only seven countries in the world allow abortions after 20 weeks.