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20-Week Abortion Ban Introduced in the Senate

20-Week Abortion Ban Introduced in the Senate

June 12, 2015 — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday introduced a bill (S 1553) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Huffington Post reports (Bassett, Huffington Post, 6/11).

Background

The move comes after the House last month voted 242-184 to pass a companion bill (HB 36).

House leaders originally planned to vote on a version of the bill on Jan. 22 -- the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision -- but changed course after some conservative lawmakers raised concerns about a requirement that a rape survivor would have to formally report the rape to police to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/14).

Bill Details

The Senate measure is similar to the House bill. Specifically, the Senate bill still would require adult rape survivors to meet strict restrictions before obtaining abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Specifically, abortion care only would be permitted if the woman receives counseling or medical care at least 48 hours before the procedure.

Meanwhile, the bill maintains reporting requirements for rape or incest survivors who are minors, allowing them to obtain abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy only if the incident has been reported to a law enforcement agency or social services. The bill would not provide exemptions in cases of incest for adults (Fram, AP/Yahoo! News, 6/11).

The legislation also includes provisions that would require women seeking abortion later in pregnancy to sign an "informed consent" form and make physicians who violate the legislation liable for civil action. Criminal penalties, including up to five years' imprisonment, are also permitted for certain violations (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/14).

The Senate version of the legislation currently has 42 co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Sullivan, The Hill, 6/11).

Next Steps

The measure faces opposition among abortion-rights supporters in the Senate, and President Obama has said he will veto the bill should it gain congressional approval (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/14). According to the Huffington Post, the legislation likely does not have the support to overcome a Senate filibuster by supporters of abortion rights (Huffington Post, 6/11).

However, Graham said he hoped introducing the measure would result in debate over the issue, even if the measure does not become law (The Hill, 6/11). He said he would "insist" on the measure receiving a vote in the Senate.

Reaction

Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Thursday said he is strongly opposed to the legislation.

He said, "As an ob-gyn, I know firsthand the reasons why women may need abortion care after 20 weeks, and I have seen the pain that many of these women are in when confronting these decisions. Yet this ban would force physicians to deny services, even to women who have made the difficult decision to end pregnancies for reasons including fetal anomalies diagnosed later in pregnancy or other unexpected obstetric outcomes." DeFrancesco added, "This is simply cruel."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, "I'm calling on [conservative] leaders to drop this dangerous political attack, listen to women across the country who have made clear they don't need a politician at their doctor's appointments, and focus on the real challenges our country faces" (Huffington Post, 6/11).