Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican request for debate and votes on two competing abortion bills, on the one-year anniversary of the conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed that the Senate debate his bill to prevent abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and another Democratic bill aimed at expanding abortion rights. He suggested that after debate, Senate passage for both bills would require 60 votes, a threshold that would likely prevent either bill from passing.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tried to call up his abortion bill on Tuesday, but was rejected by Democrats. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Graham said he brought up the proposal to mark the anniversary of Gosnell's murder conviction for performing late-term abortions on several women.
"The reason I brought it up today is, this is the anniversary of the Dr. Gosnell case, which was one of the most horrendous cases in American jurisprudence," Graham said on the Senate floor.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) represented Democrats on the floor, and objected to Graham's unanimous consent request to debate and vote on the two bills.
"This proposal to ban abortion after 20 weeks in my view is irresponsible and should not be before the United States Senate," Blumenthal said of Graham's proposal. Blumenthal added that neither bill has moved through any Senate committees yet.
"This bill should not be considered in this way," he said.
Blumenthal also made it clear he opposes Graham's bill, which would threaten jail time for doctors who violate the 20-week limit on abortions. Blumenthal also said women need certain exceptions, such as when the life of the mother is in danger.
Graham said exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother are included in his bill.
Blumenthal was followed by several Democratic senators who criticized Graham for calling up a bill to put limits on abortion. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Gosnell was a "rogue doctor" who is now in jail, "as he should be."
But she said Graham's bill would "drive more women to rogue doctors" by limiting abortion.
Graham defended his legislative proposal by saying many babies survive after being born at 20 weeks, and that doctors recommend anesthesia when operating on fetuses at that age.
"If you're this far along in the pregnancy, the government should have the right to come and protect the unborn child from wholesale abortion because you're so far along that the medical science requires anesthesia before you operate," he said.
"The question is, is you're going to require a doctor to provide anesthesia to the baby before they operate to save its life, should we have wholesale abortions at that point?"
Graham's bill is the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has 40 GOP cosponsors in the Senate. Blumenthal's bill is the Women's Health Protection Act, which has 32 Democratic cosponsors.