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Updated at 4:32 p.m. EST to add additional details and comments from pro-life leaders.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Senate Democrats have blocked a Senate bill that would have protected babies capable of feeling pain from being aborted.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553) received a majority of votes in the Republican-controlled chamber, by a vote of 54-42. But it fell short of the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

Restoring the procedural block was one of the first moves made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he assumed leadership in January. The filibuster had been abolished by his predecessor, Democrat Harry Reid, who used the opportunity to push through vast swaths of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda and pro-abortion judicial nominees.

Pro-life critics, especially Sen. Ted Cruz, have criticized Mitch McConnell for holding “show votes” that he knew would be thwarted in the chamber.

Three pro-life Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania – voted yes.

Two Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine, voted no. 

Presidential hopefuls cast their vote on the bill, as well. Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio all voted yes. Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted against the measure.

“Today’s ​failure of the ​Senate ​to pass ​a ​law preventing most ​abortion​s after babies are old enough to feel pain is beyond belief,” said Lila Rose, the president and founder of Live Action. “It should sicken every American that our elected leaders refuse to protect the most vulnerable in our society, even when science has proven that at ​just ​20 weeks​ old, child​ren​ in the womb can feel the intense pain of the abortionists’ tools tearing their​ arms and legs from their bodies.”

“Every senator who voted against this legislation is telling the public loud and clear that he supports the barbaric, horrific practice of tearing limb from torso and poisoning to death five-month, seven-month, and even eight-month-old babies in the womb,” she said.

The Senate Democrats who opposed the bill are “the extremists on this issue,” according to Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. “Big Abortion and its political allies…are pushing abortion through all nine months, fighting health and safety standards that protect women’s lives and threatening a government shutdown (which they will blame on Republicans) to force funding to the scandal-ridden Planned Parenthood.” 

“It is a big disappointment that our elected officials did not pass the overwhelmingly popular, common sense, late term abortion ban today,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.  “In the words of Pope Francis, visiting the nation’s capital this week, ‘The level of progress in a society is measured by its capacity to safeguard life, above all in its most fragile stages.’ As a country we would flunk this progress test today. America is called to defend life.  And our senators are elected to represent their people, not extremist views. The fight is not over. Similar to the partial-birth abortion ban, this will take time. But we will succeed.”

Mike Fichter of Indiana Right to Life agreed, “It's unfortunate that Senate Democrats refuse to clearly recognize the humanity of these unborn babies. Babies in the second half of pregnancy feel pain, and many preterm babies are surviving outside of the womb with few long-term health effects. These babies deserve our nation's protection.” He thanked both his state's senators for supporting the bill.

But Carol Tobias of National Right to Life called the vote “a stepping stone towards victory” in the day that a pro-life president signs it into law.

Pro-life advocates had strongly supported the bill. “Most people don’t know that as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion policy in the United States is among the most extreme in the world,” said Ovide Lamontagne, general counsel for Americans United for Life Action. “An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose late-term abortions. Recent polls reveal that 63 percent of all Americans including 70 percent of women – support a limitation on abortion at five months of pregnancy.”

The House of Representatives passed the bill, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, with a bipartisan 242-184 vote in May. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced the bill in the Senate the following month.

The House originally passed the bill in June 2013, but it was not introduced in the Senate for five months, and it never came up for a vote in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats.

Numerous national polls have found strong support for the bill from a majority or plurality of Americans – including surveys conducted by QuinnipiacNational JournalHuffington PostNBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News. Generally, women and young people favor a late-term abortion ban on the grounds of fetal pain more than men or older Americans.