Five Republican senators on Friday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is unlikely to pass because it will need at least 60 votes in the Senate and does not have enough votes even if all 51 Republicans were to support it. But anti-abortion activists have urged leaders for a vote because they want to have senators on the record with their vote ahead of the midterm elections.
"A vote would make our constituents immediately aware of the members of Congress who support elective late-term abortions and oppose extending legal protection to pain-capable unborn children nationwide," senators wrote in their letter.
The letter was sent by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana and Roy Blunt of Missouri. They urged the bill to reach the floor close to the 45th annual March for Life on Friday, a rally in Washington that protests abortion.
"The United States is currently one of only seven countries in the world that permit elective abortion after 20 weeks," the letter stated. "Polling numbers consistently show that the majority of Americans support a ban on abortion at this stage of pregnancy; these Americans no longer want to keep the company of countries like China and North Korea."
At least 17 states ban abortions after 20 weeks, and just over 1 percent of abortions occur at this time in a pregnancy. Advocates say the bill must be passed because a fetus can feel pain at that point of a pregnancy. Critics say that is false and that the legislation would endanger women.
"There are many reasons why a woman might need abortion care after 20 weeks, and she should be able to make that decision with those she trusts," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation. "Instead, this bill would deny abortion care to a woman even if her healthcare provider determined that an abortion was her best medical option. It would also force a woman to wait until severe medical conditions became life threatening before she could obtain the abortion care she needed."