US Senate Democrats blocked a controversial measure on Monday that would ban and criminalise abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, scuttling a longtime priority of conservatives in Congress. President Donald Trump described the failure of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as “disappointing,” and urged senators to reconsider. The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill in the 100-member Senate, although it earned a narrow majority in the chamber, 51 to 46.
Congressional Republicans have for years sought to pass legislation that restricts abortion in the United States, despite the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling upholding a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. The bill, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks but provide exceptions for rape, incest and critical health risks to the mother, passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in October. But it faced a higher bar in the Senate, where opponents’ blocking tactics can force a 60-vote threshold.
“We may not have the votes this time, but we are advancing the issue, and we’re going to continue to fight for the unborn, particularly those who are capable of feeling pain after 20 weeks,” Senator Lindsey Graham, the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a statement. “You’re on the right side of history,” Graham argued to supporters on the Senate floor. “You’re where America will be, it’s just a matter of time when we get there.”
The effort received support from Democrats Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin — three senators up for re-election this year in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016.