Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, is once again introducing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Graham hassince 2013 only to have it defeated again and again in Congress.
This year might be different, thanks to a conservative majority in the Supreme Court and several restrictive abortion measures being passed in Republican-controlled states across the country. But the bill would still need 60 votes to bypass a filibuster and pass the Senate, an extremely unlikely outcome given that Republicans control only 54 seats in the chamber. And it would also need to pass the House, which now has a substantial Democratic majority.
Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a full committee hearing on the legislation before speaking to reporters on Tuesday. Operating under the premise that an unborn child feels pain at 20 weeks, or five months, the legislation only has exceptions for cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.
“I think science is on our side,” Graham said in the press conference. He offered the fact that surgeons operating on unborn children use anesthesia as evidence that they feel pain. Graham said that Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who sometimes breaks rank with his party, may be willing to sign onto the bill.
The legislation has never been able to clear the hurdle of invoking cloture, a procedural vote which allows legislation to advance to the Senate floor for a full vote.
“I’m not under any illusion here, getting 60 votes will be difficult any time soon, but this is a journey worth taking,” Graham told reporters.
Democrats argue that such a bill would restrict a woman’s right to choose what happens in her body and violate Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
However, President Trump has nominated and the Senate has confirmed two justices to the Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointee who repeatedly ruled in favor of abortion rights, was replaced last year by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who is widely considered to be more conservative than his predecessor.
If Graham’s bill managed to pass the Senate and the Democratic-controlled and be signed into law, it would likely be challenged. With a more conservative court, it’s possible his legislation would be upheld.
Several Republican-controlled states have passed more restrictive abortion laws in the hopes that the Supreme Court would reconsider the issue.
Kentucky is considering a bill which would ban abortion at six weeks. According to the New York Times, Damon Thayer, the Republican majority leader of the Kentucky Senate, told reporters in January: “I would be proud if it’s Kentucky that takes it all the way up to the Supreme Court and we challenge Roe v. Wade. That would be absolutely the pinnacle of my career in the Legislature.”
Georgia is also considering a bill which would ban abortion after six weeks. Federal courts have struck down.
Some states might quicklyoutright if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned. Bills to prohibit abortion have been proposed in Washington, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, and have passed in North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky.
However, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberal justices tofrom going into effect in February. Court watchers say Roberts, a Republican appointee and former official in the Reagan administration, may still be hesitant to overturn judicial precedent on the matter.