This week, the Senate held a procedural vote on a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (I can’t even tell you how much I hate that name*), which already passed the House back in October, failed to reach the required 60-vote threshold. The mostly party line vote failed 51-46, with Democrats Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Bob Casey (PA) joining all but two Republicans in voting YES. Those GOP holdouts were Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
The whole thing was pointless, and cynical, and cruel.
It was pointless because they knew going in it was going to fail. Mitch McConnell and company knew they didn’t have 60 votes. They also knew that even if the bill passed and was signed into law, it would take about 90 seconds for a federal judge to shoot it down. Right now, under Roe v. Wade and related court decisions, bans on abortion before viability (around 24 weeks) are unconstitutional. And there aren’t five votes on the Supreme Court (right now) to so completely overturn Roe, and everyone involved knew that, too.
Which leads to the cynical bit. Why have a vote on a bill you know can’t pass? A bill that would be unconstitutional even if it did? That one’s easy: there are ten Senate Democrats running for re-election this year in states Donald Trump carried, and Mitch McConnell wants to make life harder for them. It’s looking like a tough year to be a Republican legislator, so they’re going to need an energized, angry base to turn out to vote. This vote was a good start.
So it was pointless and cynical, but let’s not forget cruel.
People who support these bans would have you believe there’s an epidemic of women wandering around, pregnant and fine with it, until somewhere after the half-way mark. Then one morning they wake up and think “You know what would be fun today? I’m going to go have an expensive, hard-to-access, socially stigmatized, probably painful medical procedure just for the hell of it.” And then they traipse off and do it.
That doesn’t happen. It JUST. DOES. NOT. HAPPEN.
Only 1.3% of all abortions in the U. S. happen at 21 weeks or later. But those that do? Sometimes they are young victims of rape or incest who didn’t come forward earlier. Sometimes they are poor women who have been desperately trying to raise the money to pay for the procedure. Often, they’re women who have dangerous health conditions worsened by the pregnancy. But a lot of the time? Late abortions happen because something has gone very, very wrong with the pregnancy.
The bill the Senate just tried to pass? It has limited exceptions for saving a woman’s life or for rape victims. But for fetal malformations, even if they’re lethal? Nope.
Pointless, cynical, and cruel.
*Because it’s a lie. Most medical research says a fetus can’t feel pain until much later in pregnancy. The doctors most frequently cited by anti-choice activists don’t seem to like the way their research is being used, either.