January 29, 2018

Senate to Consider 20-Week Abortion Ban

The bill is unlikely to pass but Republicans need to shore up their religious base

by Chris Thomas

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Photo by Vlad Tchompalov

S. 2311, the eye-rollingly-titled “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” comes to the Senate floor this week, though it is unlikely to survive the inevitable Democratic filibuster. The bill would ban abortion beyond the 20th week of pregnancy and impose criminal penalties, including jail time, on violators.

What This Means

The bill isn’t about policy or morals; it’s about painting Democrats as baby killers.

The Evangelical base of the Republican party has taken a moral beating since the election of Donald Trump. The President’s history of sexual misconduct, adultery, vulgarity, racism, and decidedly un-christlike behavior has cast a shadow over the evangelical-right wing that supported his candidacy and continues to support his presidency.

Enter the 20-week abortion ban.

Republicans depend on those evangelical votes and, in light of recent events, they need to remind the Christian right why they should continue to vote the way they do. S. 2311 is just such a reminder. The bill is a half-measure, to be sure. If passed into law, its exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother would clash ideologically with the belief that a fetus is the moral equivalent of a 5-year-old, but no one on the Hill is concerned with that particular detail.

They’re not concerned because the bill’s purpose is force Democrats to vote against it. Bogged down in the Senate, the moral inconsistencies fall away. Filibustering Democrats come off as ideological opponents of the right-to-life movement, unwilling to accept even a laundry-list of compromises and Republicans have some red meat to throw to their base in November.

It’s one of the perks of controlling the legislature.

Why This Matters

Twenty-weeks is fairly early in the gestational process and one of the most glaring omissions in the bill is an exception to prevent human suffering. At around 20 weeks, medical professionals begin to be able to discern brain, spinal, abdominal, cardiovascular, and other serious anomalies. Numerous conditions only detectable at or after 20 weeks can condemn a child to a short, horrifically painful life and would-be parents to ruinous medical bills and emotional stress.

Yet polling suggests that this wedge issue works for the GOP. A poll taken on behalf of the (anti-abortion) Susan B. Anthony list shows that voters in Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin both support a 20-week abortion ban and would be less likely to vote for candidates that opposed it. Why those states?

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2108 Senate Map via Wikipedia

They all have Senate seats up for election in 2018 and they’re all held by Democrats.

Tell Congress what you think!

Especially if you live in one of those targeted states, telling your Senators what you think about this bill and abortion rights more broadly can really make a difference. Text RESIST to 50409 to tell your representatives or Senators what you think about this or any other issue before Congress or talk to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger or Telegram.

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