WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A majority of the United States Senate voted again Tuesday to ban late-term abortions and mandate medical care for infants delivered alive after failed abortions, though Senate filibuster rules once again prevented either measure from passing the chamber.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, would prohibit most abortions starting at 20 weeks (or five months) into pregnancy, by which point science indicates preborn babies are capable of feeling pain. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would require abortionists to transfer infants who survive abortions to hospitals, where they would be given the same degree of care as any wanted newborn.
The Senate voted 53-44 for the 20-week abortion ban, and 56-41 for the anti-infanticide measure. Both needed 60 votes in order to pass.
“These two proposals, in any sane and rational world, would be agreed to unanimously,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said on the Senate floor. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) challenged anyone who denies the science of fetal pain to visit a neonatal intensive care unit and listen to nurses explain “how they can hold that small infant, sometimes even in the palm of their hands. And they can see it grimace at a poke or a prod, maybe even slap away a tube or a needle as they approach.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed for cloture on both bills last week, beginning a formal debate period and setting the stage for Tuesday’s cloture vote to end debate, which would then theoretically be followed by a vote on whether to pass them as required by the U.S. Constitution.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion, however. Even though the Senate currently has majority support for both bills, GOP-backed Senate filibuster rules require most standalone bills to first attain 60 votes to end debate and move onto the final simple-majority vote.
It would have been possible, albeit time-consuming, to circumvent the filibuster by forcing the minority party to engage in a literal filibuster and enforce the “two-speech rule” limiting the number of times individual Democrats can speak. But McConnell has long been unwilling to repeal, alter, or otherwise weaken the legislative filibuster, with little discussion among the GOP or pro-life groups of modifying or maneuvering around it.
The current filibuster rules have long been a source of frustration among conservative activists for stymying conservative agenda items on a wide range of issues. Defenders of the status quo argue it prevents either side from enacting controversial bills that lack bipartisan support, but conservatives respond that leftists’ most destructive changes are enacted via courts and executive action rather than Congress. Further Democrats are expected to abolish it when they next regain power anyway.
For Senate Republicans to “continue championing the modern-day version of the filibuster with absolutely no limitations whatsoever is tantamount to signing a death warrant for American babies,” laments Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz, who accuses them of “only support[ing] pro-life bills when they know they are not playing with live ammo.”
Congress has voted on both bills repeatedly in the past. Were it not for the filibuster, the 20-week abortion ban likely would have been signed into law during President Donald Trump’s first two years in office, when Republicans controlled the House.
Democrats’ current House majority means neither bill would have become law this year even without the filibuster to contend with. Nevertheless, the votes highlight just two examples of what’s at stake for the preborn in the November elections. If Trump wins and Republicans retake Congress, the born-alive and pain-capable bills would have a new opportunity to become law – provided pro-life activists pressure lawmakers to review the Senate’s filibuster rules.