Senate to vote on two abortion restriction bills

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  (CNN) – The battle over abortion rights will make its way to the Senate floor on Tuesday when Republicans bring two longstanding bills with little chance of passage up for votes before the chamber.

The bills, which have been introduced annually over the past few years, will pin down senators’ stances on a key 2020 issue and follow through on a request from President Donald Trump.

They will allow Republicans to capitalize on last year’s state-level anti-abortion momentum in the lead up to November’s election, as well as to bolster Trump’s recent efforts to secure the support of anti-abortion voters by painting Democrats as extremists on the issue. While neither measure is expected to garner the 60 votes needed to advance, bringing them up for a vote gives Senate Republicans fodder to pressure moderate Democrats on their voting records.

The first bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would ban abortion at 20 weeks based on the scientifically disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point in development. The measure, sponsored by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, would clash with the 24-week threshold established by Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalized abortion nationwide prior to viability.

Trump specifically named the issue during his State of the Union address earlier this month.

“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” he said. “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.”

The bill fell short during a 2018 vote in a 51-46 split that fell largely along party lines. Democrats Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and former Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana backed the measure, while Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski opposed it.

The second bill to be considered Tuesday is the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, that would require abortion providers to work to “preserve the life and health” of a fetus that was born following an attempted abortion as they would for a newborn baby, or face up to five years in prison. Opponents have argued that such measures restrict abortion access by threatening health care providers.

Similarly, the bill’s most recent recorded vote in February 2019 saw a vote split 53-44 along party lines, with Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones joining Casey and Manchin to vote in support of the bill. CNN has reached out to Jones’ office to ask how he will vote.

Casey and Manchin both indicated Monday that they would again back both bills.

“They’re the same two bills that we’ve had votes on the last couple of years, and I’ll be yes on both,” Casey said.

Manchin pointed to his consistency on the issue, saying, “I always voted for them, just check the record — nothing changes.”

Democratic Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a staunch abortion rights advocate, said that she did not expect additional Democrats to support the two bills.

“I have not whipped the vote, but I don’t expect that,” she said Monday.

Senate Republicans have already taken other steps this year to advance anti-abortion efforts. Last month, 39 Republican senators joined 168 members of the House of Representatives, almost all of them Republicans, in filing a brief to urge the Supreme Court to reconsider — if not overrule — Roe.

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